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A Summary Judgment motion is a request for the court to decide legal issues involved in the case, based on the evidence identified during discovery.
The Summary Judgment motion is filed with the court usually by the defendant at the end of discovery.
The purpose of Summary Judgment motions is to achieve one of two objectives: (1) either end the plaintiff’s case due to dispositive issues of law that preclude the plaintiff’s case; or (2) to narrow the plaintiff’s legal claims for trial.
1) What is a Summary Judgment motion?
In Georgia state courts, the Summary Judgment process begins when a party, usually a defendant, files a Motion for Summary Judgment with the court.
The responding party has thirty (30) days to file a response in opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment.
After that, the parties usually request and schedule a hearing with the court to discuss the specific issues.
The court usually takes one to three months to read the parties' legal briefs and perform its own research before formalizing its decision in a final order.
2) What does the Summary Judgment process look like?
Any party can file a motion for Summary Judgment, but in personal injury cases, defendants are usually the party filing these motions.
That’s because the defendant wants to avoid trial on some or all of the plaintiff’s legal claims, if possible.
3) Who can file a Motion for Summary Judgment?
If the judge grants a defendant’s motion for Summary Judgment, the judge is agreeing with the defendant that some or all of the plaintiff’s case should not go to trial.
For all practical purpose, the plaintiff’s case ends with regard to those issues decided by the judge.
The only way a plaintiff can challenge the trial court judge’s decision is by appealing the final summary judgment order.
4) What happens if the judge grants Summary Judgment in my case?
If the judge denies a defendant’s motion for Summary Judgment, the judge agrees with the plaintiff that a jury should decide all or part of the plaintiff’s case.
A defendant can challenge the trial court judge’s decision by appealing the final summary judgment order.
5) What happens if the Judge denies Summary Judgment in my case?
A judge usually takes one to three months to consider the legal briefs and decide whether to grant or deny a motion Summary Judgment.
This period does not begin until after the parties have submitted their legal briefs and, if requested, held a hearing on those briefs.
The judge may take longer if the case involves complex issues.
6) How long does it take for a judge to decide a Summary Judgment motion?
The party seeking Summary Judgment (usually the defendant) has the burden of proving to the judge that their motion for Summary Judgment should be granted.
This means the defendant must show there are no genuine issues of fact to prevent the case from being decided by the Judge.
Meanwhile, if the party opposing the motion for Summary Judgment is able to show that genuine issues of fact exist, the case should go to the jury at trial.
7) Who has the burden of proof on Summary Judgment?
The trial court judge’s decision whether to grant or deny summary judgment can be reversed by the court of appeals.
This only occurs if the losing party files an appeal challenging the judge’s decision.
It is rare for the court of appeals to accept an appeal and reverse the trial court’s decision.