What is the Difference Between a Motion for Dismissal & Motion for Summary Judgement?

What is the Difference

As part of the procedure in civil cases, both parties have the capability of making requests for court consideration. Motions are formal requests submitted to a judge to serve a variety of purposes. Examples include requests to continue (postpone) the proceedings, that an existing court order be modified, for case dismissal, and many others. The majority of these requests must be done in writing, unless during a hearing or trial, and notice is provided to the opposing party and/or their legal counsel. Motions typically include a brief summary of points which support the request. Two common types include motions to dismiss (MTD) and motions for summary judgement (MSJ), both request that a case be disposed, or terminated, but are quite different.

Motions for Summary Judgement

Summary judgments are addressed in Rule 56 in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They are motions by either party, the movant, to dispose of a claim by judgement in their favor, since no genuine disagreement exists to any material fact. They are accompanied by a factual supportive statement(s) indicating a claim lacks viable evidence, or that the opposing party is unable to produce evidence that is admissible to support it. Courts generally discourage lengthy exhibits accompanying motions, preferring rather that they are limited to the essentials, in a brief format. An MSJ avoids furthering the case to trial since the facts indicate what the outcome will be.

Motions for Dismissal

They are addressed in Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and typically generated by defendants early in a case’s development. They seek to expose legal deficiencies within claims. Common reasons for dismissal include that the defendant was improperly served with the complaint, or for a failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. For example, in personal injury actions, plaintiffs must detail that they were injured from the opposing party’s negligence. If the pleading is unable to determine this, the grounds for granting a dismissal may exist.

Key Differentiating Factors

  • An MTD typically occurs because a key procedural aspect was not conducted, or done improperly. MSJs focus on facts in the case and suggests a trial will not alter the indisputable outcome.
  • When a MTD is granted, the losing party may revise their claim and file again. It most instances, summary judgments cannot be re-filed unless under certain circumstances or via appeal.
  • Plaintiffs need only to have legally compliant claims to avoid MTDs, otherwise, it should be determined by a jury. An MSJ requires that judges decide the sufficiency of evidence in rendering a determination.
  • MSJs are exclusively applicable in civil cases, while MTDs apply in criminal and civil matters.

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