Last edited 22 Jan 2021

Summary judgement

Summary judgement is a procedure in civil law by which a court can reach a judgement without a trial being necessary. This may be on the merits of the entire case or on certain parts or issues within it.

Summary judgement is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 24, which state that it can be arrived at where the plaintiff or defendant’s claim has no real prospect of success, or where there is no other compelling reason for a trial.

An application for summary judgement can be made by one of the parties based on:

  • A point of law.
  • The evidence expected to be available at trial, or lack of it.
  • A combination of both.

Typically a summary judgement motion will have three parts:

  • One of the parties will present their version of the facts and provide evidence.
  • This party will attempt to convince the judge, using statutes and case studies, that under the law, they are entitled to win the case without a trial taking place.
  • They anticipate the defence put forward by the other party and seek to demonstrate that even if those arguments are correct and valid, they would still win the case.

The other party is given a chance to argue their side, and demonstrate that the motion is incorrect, or that there is evidence which could support their version of events.

The judge will review the submitted evidence and either grant the motion or deny it. The judge may not grant summary judgement if the defending party requires more time to investigate the claim or if the case is highly complex.

There is the risk that applying for a summary judgement may result in delay and increased costs. This is because proceedings are generally suspended for other purposes until the case is heard. The applicant may then face cost orders if the motion is unsuccessful. However, even if the motion is unsuccessful, it can still be useful in that the other party has been forced to set out their position and evidence at an earlier stage than they otherwise would have had to, allowing better preparation for the trial.

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