Written by attorney Jeffrey Harlan Penneys

Motion for Summary Judgment Standard

Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1035(b) sets forth the standards governing summary judgment as follows:

"The judgment sought shall be rendered if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."

In adhering to this standard, the Pennsylvania courts have adopted the following guidelines:

It is not the Court's function to decide issues of fact, but solely to determine whether there is an issue of fact to be tried. Wilk v. Hous, 313 Pa. Super. 479, 482, 460 A.2d 288, 290 (1983); Tom Morello Construction Co., Inc. v. Bridgeport Federal Savings and Loan Assoc., 280 Pa. Super. 329, 421 A.2d 747; Callender v. Goodyear Tire and Rubbert Co., 387 Pa. Super. 283, 564 A.2d 180, 183 (1989). Kerns v. Methodist Hospital, 393 Pa. Super. 533, 574 A.2d 1068 (1990); Granthum v. Textile Machine Works, 230 Pa. Super. 199, 326 A.2d 449 (1974).

The Court is precluded from assessing and weighing testimony during its consideration of Motions for Summary Judgment. Troy v. Kamp Grounds of America, Inc., 399 Pa. Super. 41, 581 A.2d 665 (1990). Movant has the burden of demonstrating clearly that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Marroquin v. Mutual Benefit Insurance Co., 404 Pa. Super. 441, 591 A.2d 290 (1991).

The Court must consider both the record actually presented and the record potentially possible at the time of trial. Marroquin, supra. A party should not be deprived of an adequate opportunity to fully develop his case by trial, when the issues involved make such procedure the appropriate one. It is often the case that although the basic facts are not in dispute, the inferences to be drawn from these facts may differ. Marroquin, supra.

The Court must accept as true all well pleaded facts in the non-moving party's pleadings, and give to him or her benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. Jefferson v. State Farm Insurance, 380 Pa. Super. 167, 551 A.2d 283 (1988); Marroquin, supra.

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact are to be resolved against a grant of summary judgment. Penn Center House, Inc. v. Hoffman, 520 Pa. 171, 176, 553 A.2d 900 (1989); Marroquin, supra. Summary judgment will not be entered unless the case is clear and free from doubt. Hathi v. Krewstown Park Apartments, 385 Pa. Super. 613, 561 A.2d 1261 (1989).

Because an Order favorable to the moving party will prematurely end an action, summary judgment is only appropriate in the clearest of cases. Skipworth v. Lead Industries, Inc., 547 Pa. 224, 690 A.2d 169 (1997).

In Ertel v. Patriot-News Co., 544 Pa. 93, 674 A.2d 1038 (1996) rearg. den., 117 S.Ct. 512, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that in order to defeat a Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff must show sufficient evidence on any issue essential to his case and in which he bears the burden of proof such that a jury could return a verdict in his favor. Id., 674 A.2d at 1042.

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