Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in VT

Issue: Under Vermont law, is summary judgment appropriate when there is a fact question upon which coverage under an insurance policy may depend?

Area of Law: Insurance Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Genuine issues of material fact; Insurance policy coverage
Jurisdiction: Vermont
Cited Cases: 583 A.2d 607; 777 A.2d 151; 160 Vt. 305; 163 Vt. 124
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2012

“Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, after giving the benefit of all reasonable doubts and inferences to the nonmoving party.”  N. Sec. Ins. Co. v. Perron, 172 Vt. 204, 208, 777 A.2d 151 (2001) (quoting City of Burlington v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., 163 Vt. 124, 127, 655 A.2d 719, 721 (1994)).  Where there are material fact questions in dispute, particularly when “there is a fact question upon which coverage under the policy may depend, the grant of summary judgment on those claims [is] improper.”  Perron, 172 Vt. at 208.  “Summary judgment is not a substitute for a determination on the merits, so long as evidence has been presented which creates an issue of material fact, no matter what view the court may take of the relative weight of that evidence.”  Vermont Envtl. Bd. v. Chickering, 155 Vt. 308, 319, 583 A.2d 607, 613-14 (1990).  It is not the function of the trial court to find facts on a motion for summary judgment, even if the record appears to lean strongly in one direction.  See Booska v. Hubbard Ins. Agency, Inc., 160 Vt. 305, 309, 627 A.2d 333, 335 (1993).


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