Sufficiency of Affidavits to Sustain Summary Judgment

In D'Amico v. Board of Medical Examiners (1974) 11 Cal.3d 1, the California Supreme Court stated the general maxims of summary judgment law. Summary judgment is proper when the supporting affidavits are sufficient to sustain a judgment in the moving party's favor, and the opposing affidavits do not show facts sufficient to raise a triable issue. In examining the sufficiency of these affidavits, a court should construe those of the moving party strictly and those of the opposing party liberally, because summary judgment is a drastic procedure to be used with caution. On the other hand, this rule of caution should not be allowed to frustrate the summary judgment procedure when the opposing party seeks to screen a lack of triable issues. (Id. at p. 20.) Thus the "stern requirements" regarding the construction of affidavits are "relaxed or altered" when an admission obtained through discovery demonstrates there is no factual issue to be tried. (Id. at p. 21.) The court reasoned that an admission has a "high credibility value" that is due greater deference than statements set out in an affidavit, especially when the admission is a product of discovery procedures designed to elicit material facts. (Id. at pp. 21-22.) Subsequent case law has formulated these statements into the principle that "admissions or concessions made during the course of discovery govern and control over contrary declarations lodged at a hearing on a motion for summary judgment." (Visueta v. General Motors Corp. (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1609.) The Supreme Court in D'Amico cited to King v. Andersen (1966) 242 Cal.App.2d 606, 51 Cal. Rptr. 561 (King) to illustrate a proper application of this principle. (D'Amico, supra, 11 Cal.3d at p. 21.) In King, a plaintiff sought damages for false arrest and assault, yet at his deposition testified that the defendants had not used any force. Later, he submitted an opposing declaration in which he averred defendants had used unnecessary force. (King, supra, 242 Cal.App.2d at pp. 609-610.) In affirming the summary judgment for the defendants, the Court of Appeal declined to construe his opposing declaration liberally--in effect disregarding it entirely--because it found his prior deposition testimony to be a "clear and unequivocal admission" that he could not "withdraw without committing the grossest perjury." (Id. at p. 610.) In King, supra, 242 Cal.App.2d 602, the plaintiff's deposition testimony was clearly an admission against interest, going to the heart of his cause of action.