Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
A widow sued in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that her husband's death resulted from his exposure to asbestos manufactured or distributed by 15 named corporations. One corporation moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff had failed to produce evidence that her husband had been exposed to its asbestos products. The plaintiff produced documents tending to show such exposure, but the moving party argued that they were inadmissible hearsay and could not be considered in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. The District Court granted the motion, holding that there had been no showing that the decedent had been exposed to the moving party's products in the District of Columbia or elsewhere. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed, holding that the moving party had not adduced evidence, in the form of affidavits or otherwise, to support its motion, and that Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Adickes v S. H. Kress & Co. 398 US 144, 26 L Ed 2d 142, 90 S Ct 1598, required that the party opposing a motion for summary judgment bore the burden of responding only after the moving party had met its burden of coming forward with proof of the absence of any genuine issue of material fact (244 App DC 160, 756 F2d 181).
Can Summary judgment be entered against a party for failing to show facts to establish an element of the case?
On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. It was held that the position taken by the majority of the Court of Appeals was inconsistent with the standard for summary judgment set forth in Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because Rule 56 did not require the moving party to support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim, Rule 56(c) suggesting the absence of such requirement when it referred to "the affidavits, if any," and because the decision in Adickes v S. H. Kress & Co. should not be construed to mean that the burden is on the moving party to produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.