(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this workplace harassment/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS DRASTIC AND SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION
The summary judgment procedure is a drastic measure depriving the losing party of a trial on the merits and may not be granted (in this workplace harassment case) unless it is clear from the affidavits or the declarations filed in connection with the motion that there are no triable issues of fact. Rawlings v. D.M. Oliver Inc. (1979) 97 Cal. App. 3d 809, 895. The court need not look at the counter-affidavits or counter-declarations unless the moving party’s declaration, standing alone, but considered in light of the pleading, would support the summary judgment motion. Id. at 896. In all cases, any doubts as to whether summary judgment is proper should be resolved against the moving party. Id. at 896.
In examining the sufficiency of the affidavits, the moving party’s affidavits are strictly construed and those of the opposing party are liberally construed. Corwin v. Los Angeles Newspaper Service Bureau. Inc. (1971) 4 Cal. 3d 842, 851, 852. In Corwin, supra at 852, the Court noted that summary judgment procedure is drastic and should be used with caution so that it does not become a substitute for the open trial method of determining facts.
Defendants Have Failed to Meet Their Evidentiary Burden
California Code of Civil Procedure §437c states, in relevant part, as follows:
Any party may move for summary judgment in any action or proceeding if it is contended that the action has no merit… (o) A defendant … has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if that party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. Once the defendant … has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff … to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists to that cause of action or a defense thereto.
Therefore, where a defendant seeks summary judgment, it must show that either one or more elements of the cause of action cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. C.C.P. §437c(0)(2). Once a defendant meets this burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove the existence of a triable issue of material fact regarding that element of the cause of action or that defense.
The moving party’s declarations and evidence will be strictly construed in determining whether they disprove an essential element of plaintiff’s claim in order to avoid unjustly depriving the plaintiff of a trial. Brantley v. Pisaro, 42 CA4th 1591, 1601;Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass’n (1988) 46 C3d 1092, 1107.
In the case at bar, Defendants have failed to meet their initial burden of presenting admissible evidence to show that either one or more elements of Plaintiff’s first cause of action cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. (See Part 4 of 7.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.