Phase Six: Dispositive Motions
Not every case has a “dispositive motion” phase. In this phase, one or both sides have the right to bring a motion seeking the end of all or part of the case before trial. Usually called a Motion for Summary Judgment, or Motion for Adjudication of Issues, these devices ask the court to enter judgment in favor of the moving party based on the papers presented. The court can do so only if it believes it can make the decision based on uncontroverted facts. In other words, a court can grant such a motion if there is no dispute in the facts related to the issue presented. If there is any dispute in the facts related to the issue or case that is the subject of such a motion, the court must deny the motion.
As an example, if both parties agree that they signed an agreement, and that there is no dispute about the content of that agreement, and there is no dispute about the one party’s lack of performance under that agreement, and finally there is no dispute about the damages caused by the breach of the agreement, then the court could grant a motion for summary judgment. However, if the parties disagree about any of the facts stated, the motion must be denied.
Quite often defendants will bring a dispositive motion not because they think they can win it, but because it is a very effective way of making the plaintiff disclose critical aspects of its case, including its experts.
If the motion is granted, then most or all of the case is ended. If the motion is denied, then the case proceeds on to trial.