Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment Standard in CA

Issue: Under the laws of the state of California, what is the standard followed by a court in deciding whether to grant a motion for summary judgment?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; No triable issue as to any material fact
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 214 Cal. App. 3d 1; 222 Cal. App. 3d 379
Cited Statutes: Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(c); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(o)(2);
Date: 02/01/2001

The purpose of the summary judgment procedure is “to discover whether the parties possess evidence requiring the fact-weighing procedures of a trial.”  Appalachian Ins. Co. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp. (1989) 214 Cal. App. 3d 1, 10.  A motion for summary judgment must be granted “if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”  Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(c).  When a trial court rules on a motion for summary judgment, the court is merely to decide whether such issues of fact exist; it must not decide the merits of the issues themselves.  Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass’n (1988) 46 Cal. 3d 1092, 1107.

A defendant is entitled to summary judgment if he or she “establishes as a matter of law that none of the plaintiff’s asserted causes of action can prevail.”  Id. at 1107.  “A defendant may do so as to a particular cause of action by establishing, as a matter of undisputed fact, either (1) that one of the necessary elements of that cause of action does not exist, or (2) that it has a complete defense to that cause of action.”  Freeman v. Hale (1994) 30 Cal. App. 4th 1388, 1395.  See also Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(o)(2) (“A defendant . . . has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if that party […]

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