Summary Judgment in Hawaii

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In certain cases, clients can prevail in a case by filing a Motion for Summary Judgment.

Under Rule 56(c) of the Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment can be defeated if a party shows that a genuine and material issue of fact is in dispute, State v. Midkiff, 49 Haw. 456, 421 P.2d 550 (1966).

[S]ummary judgment is only appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure ( HRCP) Rule 56(c) (1990). “A fact is material if proof of that fact would have the effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties.” Hulsman v. Hemmeter Dev. Corp., 65 Haw. 58, 61, 647 P.2d 713, 716 (1982) (citations omitted). Konno v. County of Hawaii, 85 Hawaii, 61, 70, 937 P.2d 397, 406 (1997) (quoting Dunlea v. Dappen, 83 Hawaii 28, 36, 924 P.2d 196, 204 (1996)).

“The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” State ex rel. Bronster v. Yoshina, 84 Hawaii 179, 186, 932 P.2d 316, 323 (1997) (citing Maguire v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 79 Hawai’i 110, 112, 899 P.2d 393, 395 (1995)). “[W]e must view all of the evidence and the inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to [the party opposing the motion].” Maguire, 79 Hawaii at 112, 899 P.2d at 395 (citation omitted). State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Murata, 88 Hawaii 284, 287-88, 965 P.2d 1284, 1287-88 (1998) (citation omitted) (brackets in original); See also United States Steel Corp., 82 Hawaii at 38-39, 919 P.2d at 300-01.

“The moving party bears the ultimate burden of persuasion. This burden always remains with the moving party and requires the moving party to convince the court that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.” Pioneer Mill Co., Ltd. v. Dow, 1999 WL 174460, 6 (Haw. 1999). “The moving party’s burden of proof is a stringent one, since the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts alleged in the relevant materials considered by the court in deciding the motion must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Id. at 7. “Summary judgment is a drastic remedy. To avoid improperly depriving a party to a lawsuit of the right to a trial on disputed factual issues, summary judgment must be “cautiously invoked.” Id. at 6.

Although Courts grant summary judgment in only the strongest cases, for obvious reasons, its an outcome that we are always trying to achieve.