Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in a Negligence Action

Issue: Under Texas law, what is the standard for granting summary judgment in a negligence action?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Summary judgment; Negligence action
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 375 S.W.2d 900; 759 S.W.2d 691; 761 S.W.2d 98
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2000

Summary judgment is proper only if the court finds, as a matter of law, that the opposing party cannot prevail.  Butcher v. Scott, 906 S.W.2d 14, 15 (Tex. 1995).  On a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, indulging every reasonable inference and resolving any doubt in the nonmovant’s favor.  Id. at 15.  The Texas Supreme Court has long held that summary judgment is strictly construed against the moving party.  In re Price’s Estate, 375 S.W.2d 900, 904 (Tex. 1964).

It has been held that the courts should accord the party resisting the summary judgment more indulgence.  The purpose of the rule is to eliminate patently unmeritorious claims, or untenable defenses and to avoid delays of trial where there is no genuine issue of fact.  It was never intended to deprive litigants of their right to a full hearing on the merits of any real issue of fact.  The summary judgment is to be applied with caution and will not be granted where there is doubt as to facts.  Although the prompt disposal of judicial business is greatly to be desired, that is not the main objective.

Id. at 904 (citations omitted).

Although it is generally a question of law whether the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, […]

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