Once discovery has been completed in a civil case, either side has the opportunity to file what’s known as a Motion for Summary Judgment. This is a procedure whereby the judge in the case determines whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that must be decided by a jury in a case. If the facts turn out a certain way after all information in a case has been revealed, sometimes the judge can decide immediately on the issues and either limit what the jury must decide or determine that there is nothing for a jury to decide.
ISSUES IN A SLIP-AND-FALL CASE
Let’s take for example an incident where a patron enters a grocery store and sees a puddle of spilled soda on the floor. After shopping for a minute, the patron walks through the puddle, slips and falls resulting in some injury. Under Georgia law, if the patron has knowledge of the danger which is equal to or greater than that of the store owner, then there is no liability on the part of the store owner. Under those circumstances, the owner would file a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the Court to rule that there is no liability on the owner’s part and therefore no issue for the jury to decide. Conversely, if the patron had no knowledge of and could not see a spilled substance on the floor of the grocery store and the grocer either had knowledge of it or should have discovered it during its routine store inspection, then summary judgment would not be appropriate and the jury would decide the issues in the case.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND APPEALS
Often civil cases are based on more than one legal cause of action. The grant of summary judgment as to some but not all issues can help narrow the focus of the case for the jury. If the court grants or denies summary judgment on either all issues or certain key issues in a case, then the losing side can chose to appeal the court’s decision to Georgia’s appellate court. An appeal often significantly lengthens the amount of time it takes for a case to reach a jury.
If you have been injured by another person or entity, please give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free and confidential consultation.