In this article, we review the Slip and Fall standard for Summary Judgment, which determines whether a case is viable and will be able to get a jury. This excerpt is routinely cited in most of our Slip and Fall cases when a motion for summary judgement has been filed.
In Lau’s Corp., Inc. v. Haskins, the Georgia Supreme Court summarized the standard for
summary judgment as follows:
“To prevail at summary judgment under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-56, the moving party must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party warrant judgment as a matter of law. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-56(c). A defendant may do this by showing the court that the documents, affidavits, depositions and other evidence in the record reveal that there is no evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue as to any essential element of plaintiff’s claim, that claim tumbles like a house of cards. All of the other disputes of fact are rendered immaterial. [Citation omitted.] A defendant who will not bear the burden of proof at trial need not affirmatively disprove the nonmoving party’s case; instead, the burden on the moving party may be discharged by pointing out referencing to the affidavits, depositions and other documents in the record that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. If the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings, but rather must point to specific evidence giving rise to a triable issue. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-56(e).
261 Ga. 491, 491, 405 S.E.2d 474, 475-76 (1991) (emphasis in original), rev’d on other grounds, Robinson v. Kroger Co., 268 Ga. 735, 747, 493, S.E.2d 403, 413 (1997).
“The granting of summary judgment . . . ‘is a very, very grave matter’ ” because ” ‘the case is taken away from the jury, and the court substitutes its own judgment for the combined judgment of the [jury].'” Serv. Merchandise, Inc. v. Jackson, 221 Ga. App. 897, 901 (1996) (quoting Johnson v. Curenton, 127 Ga. App. 687, 688 (1972)). Hence, the law and justice demands that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable conclusions and inferences in the non-movant’s favor. See Asso. Servs., Inc. v. Smith, 249 Ga. App. 629, 630 (2001). SWI defendants 1 as the moving party, “h[as] the burden of establishing the non-existence of any genuine issue of fact, and all doubts must be resolved in favor of the non-moving party.” Northside Bldg. Supply Co. v. Foures, 201 Ga. App. 259, 259 (1991) (emphasis added). Where the evidence is conflicting, “the trial court 2 . . . is [not] permitted to weigh that evidence or determine its credibility, as those tasks are within the exclusive province of the jury.” Serv. Merchandise, Inc., 221 Ga. App. at 899. To defeat a Motion for Summary Judgment, the non-moving party need only produce slight evidence demonstrating that a question of material fact exists. Pafford v. Biomet, 264 Ga. 540 91994). Conclusive proof to rebut a movant’s evidence is not necessary to defeat a motion for summary judgment, “if the respondent produces or points to any specific evidence, even slight, in the record giving rise to a triable issue of material fact, the summary judgment must be denied.” Lee v. Sun Trust Bank, 314 Ga. App, 63 (2012) citing
Peach Blossom Development Co., v. Lowe Electric Supply Co., 300 Ga. App 268, 269 (2009).
If the evidence is not “plain, palpable, and undisputed,” then the court cannot grant summary
judgment. Plyant v. Samuels, Inc., 262 Ga. App. 358, 361 (2003) (citation omitted).
In summary judgment proceedings, “what is at stake is of constitutional magnitude…‘[w]hen a trial court or appellate court determines that summary judgment or a directed verdict is appropriate, it is in effect a determination that a party is not entitled to his or her right to a trial by jury even after a demand for jury trial has been made.’” BBB Service Company, Inc. v. Glass, 228 Ga. App. 423, 425 (491 SE2d 870) (1997).
If the defendant fails to meet this burden, their Motion for Summary Judgment is insufficient and must be denied.
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1 That burden remains with the movant even as to issues which the opposing party would have the burden at trial,
Meade v. Heimanson, 239 Ga. 177 (1997); Ham v. Ham, 230 Ga 43 (1973).
2 If the trial court is presented with a choice of inferences to be drawn, all inferences of fact must be drawn against
the movant and in favor of the opposing party, Fountain v. World Finance Corp., 144 Ga. App. 10 (1977).