What Is the Purpose of Summary Judgment ?
The purpose of summary judgment is to penetrate pleadings to ascertain, by means of affidavits, the presence or absence of triable issues of material fact. ( Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn. (1988) 46 Cal. 3d 1092, 1107, 252 Cal. Rptr. 122, 762 P.2d 46.)
The trial judge determines whether triable issues exist by examining the affidavits and evidence, including any reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts. (People v. Rath Packing Co. (1974) 44 Cal. App. 3d 56, 61-64, 118 Cal. Rptr. 438.)
In examining the affidavits, those of the moving party are strictly construed and those of the opposing party liberally construed.
Doubts as to the propriety of granting the motion are resolved in favor of the party resisting the motion. ( Stationers Corp. v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (1965) 62 Cal. 2d 412, 417, 42 Cal. Rptr. 449, 398 P.2d 785; Branco v. Kearny Moto Park, Inc. (1995) 37 Cal. App. 4th 184, 189.)
When the motion for summary judgment is supported by affidavits sufficient to sustain the motion, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion to show that triable issues of material fact exist. ( Chern v. Bank of America (1976) 15 Cal. 3d 866, 873, 127 Cal. Rptr. 110, 544 P.2d 1310.)
A party cannot avoid summary judgment based on mere speculation and conjecture ( Pena v. W. H. Douthitt Steel & Supply Co. (1986) 179 Cal. App. 3d 924, 931, 225 Cal. Rptr. 76), and must produce admissible evidence raising a triable issue of material fact. ( Craig Corp. v. County of Los Angeles (1975) 51 Cal. App. 3d 909, 915, 124 Cal. Rptr. 621.)
Under the summary judgment statute, as revised by the legislative amendments adopted in 1992 and 1993 (see Union Bank v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal. App. 4th 573, 579-592 [legislative amendments to California's summary judgment statute designed to adopt federal burden shifting provisions as interpreted by Celotex Corp. v. Catrett (1986) 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 to permit defendant to satisfy its burden by pointing to plaintiff's absence of evidence]), a defendant moving for summary judgment can satisfy his burden of showing a prima facie entitlement to summary judgment in at least two ways. the court in Brantley v. Pisaro (1996) 42 Cal. App. 4th 1591, 1598, stated:
"A moving defendant now has two means by which to shift the burden of proof under subdivision (o)(2) of section 437c to the plaintiff to produce evidence creating a triable issue of fact.
The defendant may rely upon factually insufficient discovery responses by the plaintiff to show that the plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of the cause of action sued upon.
Alternatively, the defendant may utilize the tried and true technique of negating ('disproving') an essential element of the plaintiff's cause of action."
To evaluate whether a moving party is entitled to summary judgment, the trial court must apply a three-step analysis.
First, it must identify the issues framed by the pleadings because it is these allegations to which the motion must be directed.
Second, it must determine whether the moving party's showing has satisfied the movant's burden of proof and would, if unrebutted, justify a judgment in movant's favor.
Finally, if the movant's showing would prima facie justify a judgment in the movant's favor, it must determine whether the opposition demonstrates that a triable, material factual issue exists on the particular issue. (Zuckerman v. Pacific Savings Bank (1986) 187 Cal. App. 3d 1394, 1400-1401, 232 Cal. Rptr. 458.)