Applying for Summary Judgment - is there any point?

The purpose of applying for Summary Judgment is to ask the court to dismiss a Claim or Defence on the grounds that it is so weak and incapable of succeeding that Judgment should be granted without the need for a full hearing.  A full hearing which usually requires the prior sending of what we call a 'trial bundle'.  And so the purpose of Summary Judgement is for a ruling to be made without the need for all the preparation (even for Small Claims) that goes before a full hearing.  If the Application fails then there should still be time to undertake that preparatory work. If it succeeds (and we reserve making them only for the most unmeritorious of cases so they should do) there is no actual hearing to prepare for.  This is the principal benefit to the person making it.

However, on two recent occasions our client's Applications for Summary Judgment have been arranged by the court to be heard immediately before the main hearing is scheduled.  And so one has to prepare for both hearings.  Of course if the Application succeeds then there will be no full hearing to follow but one simply cannot assume that the Application will succeed and so there is still the need to prepare in the same way as if there was just going to be that full hearing.

The purpose and benefit of making an Application for Summary Judgment seems somewhat eradicated by having it considered in this way. Certainly, it is something we need to be mindful of if this practice is to be treated by the courts as a rule rather than an exception.

Published: 02 Sep 2013

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