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Summary Judgment: Introduction

Reviewed 4/5/2019

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Summary judgment is a procedure used in federal and state trial courts for civil cases.  Summary judgment resolves cases without the need to have a trial and helps courts to move cases through the judicial system efficiently (often referred to as judicial economy). Generally, one of the main purposes of a trial is to determine the facts of a case, (for example, was the traffic light red and did the driver go through the red light without stopping?). This may be done either by a judge or a jury.  Once those facts are determined, the judge applies the law to the case to reach a result for those parties.  However, if there are no disputed facts of the case, there's no reason for a judge or jury to "find the facts." A party can file a motion for summary judgment to force the other side to prove that there are disputed facts or admit that there are none. If the motion is granted, the judge decides how the law applies to the case and renders a decision.

New Hampshire superior, probate, and district courts are given the authority to grant summary judgments by statute, and court rules and statutes govern how the procedure is implemented. If the court finds that, based on all of the information filed with the court, there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact,” the court may grant the motion for summary judgment because the moving party is entitled to a “judgment as a matter of law.” However, if the opposing party has shown that there is not complete agreement on the facts, the motion will not be granted.  The courts are concerned with protecting a party’s right to a trial and are careful not to take that away merely to achieve judicial economy.

A motion granted for summary judgment can be reconsidered by the court which granted it, and may be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  


Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.