Motions for Summary Judgment

11/14/2001

Excerpt

Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 166a, which governs summary judgment practice, permits a party on either side to obtain a prompt disposition of a case involving “‘patently unmeritorious claims and untenable defenses.’” Casso v. Brand, 776 S.W.2d 551 (Tex. 1989).  The rule provides a means of summarily terminating a case when a question of law is involved and “no genuine issue of material fact” exists.   Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c).  When it was adopted in 1950, the purpose of the rule was, and remains, to eliminate delay and expense.  Roy W. McDonald, Summary Judgments, 30 Tex. L. Rev. 285, 286 (1952); Masterson v. Hogue, 842 S.W.2d 696, 698 (Tex. App.–1992, no writ).
 
Texas experienced a major change in summary judgment practice in 1997.  As of September 1, 1997, Texas has no-evidence summary judgments.  Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(i).  In other words, the party without the burden of proof at trial (usually the defendant), without having to produce any evidence at all, will be able to move for summary judgment on the basis that the respondent (usually the plaintiff) has no evidence to support an element of its claim (or defense).  Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a cmt. to 1997 change.  A no evidence summary judgment also is a proper vehicle on which a plaintiff may challenge affirmative defenses.  See e.g., Jim Rutherford Inv., Inc. v. Terramar Beach Community Ass’n, 25 S.W.3d 845 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, pet. denied). 
 
Even with the advent of no-evidence summary judgments, summary judgment practice remains a technical procedure. “The existing rules continue to govern the general requirements of summary judgment practice.”  Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a cmt. to 1997 change.
 
Motions for summary judgment or partial summary judgment are used to win cases, obtain discovery, narrow issues, obtain discovery, educate the judge about the case and determine an opponent’s strategy.

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