October 27, 2013

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett - 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)

FACTS: Respondent commenced the lawsuit in 1908 alleging that the death of her husband resulted from exposure to asbestos manufactured and distributed by 15 corporations.  She cited negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability.

HISTORY: Defendants first argued lack of personal JX and then filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that respondent "failed to produce any evidence that their product was the proximate cause.  Then Catrett produced 3 documents which she claimed demonstrated there is genuine material factual dispute.  Petitioner then said they were all hearsay.

The District Court then granted the summary judgment.  Court of Appeals reversed.

ISSUE: Did the petitioner meet the standard for summary judgment?

HOLDING: Yes

RATIONALE:

Court says position taken by court of Appeals was    inconsistent with Rule 56(c).  The plain language of Rule    56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment after adequate   time for discovery and up[on motion against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial.

Furthermore, they don't find any requirement that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim.

56(a) and (b) provide that claimants and defendants may move for summary judgment "with or without supporting affidavits."

The looking at Rule 56(e), it requires that the nonmoving party go beyond the pleadings and by their own affidavits or    by the depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.

Defendant must show there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.

Finally Rule 56(f) allows summary judgment to be denied or to continue the motion if the nonmoving party has not had time to make full discovery.

DISSENT: Burden has 2 distinct parts:

1) burden of production shifts to nonmoving party if satisfied by moving party

2) ultimate burden or persuasion which always remains with the moving party

If the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial that party must support its motion with credible evidence (using material in 56(c)) that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial.

Coletex failed to address supporting evidence the record contained and was required to attack the adequacy of that evidence. 

That was a failure to fulfill the requirement to discharging the initial burden of production.