Insurance attorneys understand that when a claim gets denied that the majority of the time, the insured will either walk away or will hire an attorney to fight the claim denial. When the claim is denied and an attorney is hired, the case is going to end up a lawsuit. One weapon used by insurance companies in litigation is to litigate the case up to a point and then file a motion for summary judgement.
Understanding how the courts view motions for summary judgment is vital to being able to prepare for and handle these situations. The motion for summary judgment standard is briefly discussed in a case from the Northern District of Texas, Wichita Falls Division. The case is styled, Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Horton Family Trust, LLC.
The facts of this case can be read in the opinion. The focus here is the way the courts look at motions for summary judgment.
Pursuant to Rule 56(a), the Court may grant summary judgment where the pleadings and evidence show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” According to the 1986, United States Supreme Court opinion styled, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, summary judgment is not “a disfavored procedural shortcut,” but rather an “integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed ‘to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.’”
The substantive law will identify which facts are material. A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. The movant must inform the court of the basis of its motion and demonstrate from the record that no genuine dispute as to any material fact exists. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports his or her claim.
When reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, courts must resolve all reasonable doubts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non–movant. The court cannot make a credibility determination in light of conflicting evidence or competing inferences. If there appears to be some support for disputed allegations, such that reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, the court must deny the motion.
Insurance attorneys must approach and litigate their clients’ cases with this summary judgment standard in mind.