(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this wrongful death/elder abuse case and its proceedings.)
Once defendant has shown in its moving papers that a valid defense to the action exists or that one or more elements of a cause of action (such as elder abuse), even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, defendant has met its initial burden of showing that the cause of action has no merit. (Code of Civ. Proc. §437c(p)(2).) Once the defendant has met that initial burden, the burden then shifts to plaintiffs who must then show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to each element of that cause of action. (Code of Civ. Proc. §437c(p)(2).) However, this burden which plaintiffs must satisfy is quite stringent.
Plaintiffs must set forth specific facts which prove the existence of a triable issue of material fact relative to the clements of the cause of action. (Code of Civ. Proc. §437c(p)(2); Lopez v. Baca (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 1008, 1014; Saelzler v. Advanced Group 400 (2001) 25 Cal.4th 763, 768.) Mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, or factually devoid responses to discovery, are simply not sufficient to demonstrate that a triable issue of material fact exists. (Code of Civ. Proc. §437c(p)(2); Lopez, supra at 1014; Saelzler, supra at 767; Merrill v. Navegar, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 465, 476-477; Union Bank v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 573, 583-84.) If plaintiffs fail to satisfy this burden, judgment in favor of the moving defendants shall be granted as a matter of law. (Code of Civ. Proc. §437c(c).)
Less well known is that plaintiffs opposing a motion for summary adjudication must actually go well beyond merely raising a nominal issue of fact. Plaintiff must produce evidence which is legally sufficient to satisfy the applicable evidentiary standard of proof they will ultimately bear at trial, such as preponderance of the evidence. (Leslie G. v. Perry & Associates (1996) 43 Cal.4th 472, 487.)
If plaintiffs cannot as a matter of law meet the burden of proof which will apply at trial, then there is no reason for the cause of action to proceed to trial. Such causes of action ought to be weeded out on summary adjudication since it is clear the plaintiffs cannot, as a matter of law, ultimately prevail at trial. In this case, there is insufficient evidence to support any wrongful death claim against Universal Medical Center. (See Part 7 of 10.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.