Our Asheville personal injury lawyers understand that for a plaintiff to recover at trial in a personal injury lawsuit, the case must survive summary judgment.
In Irina Shea v. Kevic Corporation d/b/a Lett’s Downtown Carwash, the plaintiff was injured when she fell on ice after having her car washed by the defendant. According to witness testimony, Shea had just finished having her car washed, when she stepped out of her car to adjust her mirrors, which she claimed were moved out of place while her car was being washed.
Shea alleged that she fell on ice that the defendant had negligently allowed to form by the exit of the carwash. She also alleged that the defendant negligently failed to warn customers of the potential danger created by the ice. Shea filed suit against Kevic, claiming more than $30,000 in damages for her injuries. Prior to trial, the defendant, Kevic, filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the court.
The granting of a motion for summary judgment essentially means that that the case is dismissed. In our legal system, it is the job of the jury to be the trier of fact. The judge is there to make sure the applicable laws of civil procedure and evidence are followed. After hearing evidence, the jury decides what is true and what is not and enters a verdict that the defendant is either liable or not liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff. A motion for summary judgment is a legal mechanism used by the defense to get a case dismissed prior to trial.
A motion for summary judgment states that there is no genuine dispute of material facts for the jury to decide. In other words, even if we believe everything that the plaintiff is saying, the defendant cannot be held liable for whatever negligence has been alleged.
In North Carolina, Rule 56 of the Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment. This rule provides that testimony can be offered to the court in the form of an affidavit. In a personal injury case, the defendant will assert that based upon the evidence obtained in discovery and the allegations in the complaint, even in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (the plaintiff), there is no dispute of material facts, and the case should be dismissed. The personal injury lawyers representing the plaintiff will often provide affidavits from witnesses to show that there is evidence that can be presented to the jury at trial that shows there is a dispute of material facts. In this case, the jury does have something to decide in determining liability, and the case should go forward to trial.
If a case has not settled early in the litigation processes, it is essential that the plaintiff’s case survive summary judgment. Once this has happened, even the most reluctant defendants are likely to entertain a reasonable settlement offer. While it is true that most cases settle before trial, it helps the plaintiff recover more money if their attorneys are prepared to fight the case up to and including trial.
In Kevic, the Supreme Court of Idaho ultimately reversed the granting of summary judgment and the case was sent back to trial.
Contact our North Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.