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Summary judgment is a pre-trial motion asking the court to find in favor of one party.  A court can also grant partial summary judgment on one or more claims and allow the remaining claims to proceed to trial.  Parties in federal court bring summary judgment motions pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Courts will grant summary judgment if the law and material facts of the case obviate the need for a jury because there is no dispute that the party should prevail.     Summary judgment is similar to judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50.

By way of example, let’s say one party sues another for breach of contract. But the defendant is able to show that there is no dispute that the parties never formed a contract. If the defendant is right, all the important (material) facts demonstrate that under the law, defendant must win. There is no need for the cost and expense of the trial, so the court will grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant. However, if there is a question of fact that remains, then the case will go to trial so the jury can decide who should win the case.

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