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Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment Standard in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, what is the standard for summary judgment?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Genuine issue as to any material fact
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 134 N.W.2d 892; 240 N.W.2d 507; 179 N.W.2d 98; 275 Minn. 37; 245 N.W.2d 258; 305 N.W.2d 337
Cited Statutes: Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03
Date: 05/01/2004

Summary judgment is proper when: “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that either party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03.  Summary judgment is not a substitute for trial, however, and should not be employed except when it is clear that no issue of fact is involved and it is not necessary to inquire further into facts that might clarify application of the law.  Donnay v. Boulware, 275 Minn. 37, 45, 144 N.W.2d 711, 716 (1966). 

A “genuine issue” of fact is one which is not a sham or frivolous. A & J Builders, Inc. v. Harms, 288 Minn. 124, 133, 179 N.W.2d 98 (1970).  A material fact is one the resolution of which will affect the result or outcome of the case.  O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996); Zappa v. Fahey, 310 Minn. 555, 245 N.W.2d 258 (1976). 

On a motion for summary judgment all evidence must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.  Bennett v. Storz Broadcasting Co., 270 Minn. 525, 531, 134 N.W.2d 892, 897 (1965).  The court’s function in considering motions for summary judgment is not to decide fact issues, but solely to determine whether they exist.  […]