Summary judgment is warranted only if there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 966(C)(1). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the judge's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. All doubts should be resolved in the non-moving party's favor. A fact is material if it potentially insures or precludes recovery, affects a litigant's ultimate success, or determines the outcome of the legal dispute. A genuine issue is one as to which reasonable persons could disagree; if reasonable persons could reach only one conclusion, there is no need for trial on that issue and summary judgment is appropriate.
A motor vehicle accident after cattle had gotten on the road. The injured parties filed a negligence action against the cattle owner. The cattle owner conceded that he had the burden under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2803 of proving that he was not negligent in the escape of his cattle. That being so, the court observed that the language of La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 966(C)(2) regarding the burden of proof when the moving party would not bear the burden of proof at trial was not applicable. Consequently, the cattle owner was required to support his summary judgment motion with credible evidence that would entitle him to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. The cattle owner argued that his deposition testimony, in which he stated that a tree fell on his fence, set forth facts sufficient to overcome the presumption of negligence. The motion in opposition pointed out that the cattle owner had contradicted himself regarding the location of the tree and that there was no other evidence of a fallen tree. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the cattle owner.
Was the summary judgment proper?
The court concluded that, although courts entertaining a motion for summary judgment generally did not decide credibility issues, the discrepancies in the cattle owner's deposition testimony demonstrated that his credibility was a genuine and material issue better suited for resolution by trial. Thus, the case was remanded for further proceedings.