Claims Denial Attorneys – Read This

Here is a 2021, case from Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division, that discusses how courts are to review motions for summary judgment.  The opinion is styled, Saul Cantu v. United Property And Casualty Insurance Company.

The dispute revolves around a homeowners claim where Cantu suffered alleged damage to his property and then made a claim against his insurance company, United Property.  United Property subsequently denied the claim and eventually filed a motion for summary judgment.

Reading the opinion will set up the facts of this case, however, the focus here is the analysis by the court in this summary judgment opinion.

The Court begins by pointing out that to earn summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there are no disputes over genuine and material facts and that the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.  If the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue, either because he is the plaintiff or as a defendant he is asserting an affirmative defense, he must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor.  The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but is not required to negate elements of the nonmoving party’s case.  In other words, a movant may satisfy its burden by pointing out the absence of evidence to support the nonmovant’s case if the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof with respect to that element at trial.  To demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the movant must point to competent evidence in the record, such as documents, affidavits, and deposition testimony and must articulate precisely how this evidence supports his claim.  If the movant fails to meet its initial burden, the motions for summary judgment must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant’s response.  Accordingly, the Court may not enter summary judgment by default, but may accept a movant’s facts as undisputed if they are unopposed.

If the movant meets its initial burden, the nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations contained in the pleadings, but must set forth and support by summary judgment evidence specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial.  The nonmovant’s conclusory statements, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment.  The nonmovant is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports his or her claim.  A failure on the part of the nonmoving party to offer proof concerning an essential element of its case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial and mandates a finding that no genuine issue of fact exists.  The nonmovant’s demonstration cannot consist solely of conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation and a mere scintilla of evidence also will not do.  That is, the nonmoving party must adduce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict.

A fact is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action, while a genuine dispute is present only if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant.  As a result, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgmentAlthough this is an exacting standard, summary judgment is appropriate where the only issue before the court is a pure question of law.  The Court does not weigh the evidence or evaluate the credibility of witnesses and views all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, including resolving factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.  The Court will draw only reasonable inferences in the nonmovant’s favor and will not countenance senseless theories or leaps in logic.  The Court is under no duty to sift through the entire record in search of evidence to support the nonmovant’s opposition to summary judgment.  The Court does not assume in the absence of any proof that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts, and will grant summary judgment in any case where critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant.

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