What is a Motion for Summary Judgment? A Motion for Summary Judgment is where one party, usually the defendant, asks the Judge to rule on the case without the case proceeding to the jury. In the Defendant’s case, they are asking the Judge to Dismiss the case. The standard is to show the Judge that the parties essentially agree on all the facts of the case (“no genuine issue of material fact”), and therefore, the case should be decided strictly on the law by the Judge. Juries decide factual issues and credibility of witnesses; whereas, Judges decide legal issue. Consequently, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, the Judge can decide which way the law falls: plaintiff or defendant.
Recently, in a case Danny Feldman is handling, the Defendant, City of Midfield, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in a case where their police officer was involved in a wreck with a client of Lewis, Feldman & Lehane, LLC. While Danny argued there was an issue of fact, the Judge ruled otherwise and dismissed the case. Danny appealed.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Alabama overturned the Jefferson County Circuit Court and remanded the case for trial. Essentially, the argument centered around three factual issues: (1) whether the police officer involved in the wreck had both his siren and flashing lights on as required by statute; and (2) whether the officer slowed down at the traffic light; and (3) whether the officer exceeded the speed limit to such a degree that he endangered life or property. There was disputed testimony on all three issues. Disputed eyewitness testimony are factual issues, not legal issues, and therefore, the case was not a candidate for a summary judgment and, thus, why the Supreme Court ruled in our favor. You may read the Supreme Court decision here.