Genuine Issues of Material Fact

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ConfusedL1
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Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:29 pm

I'm in civ pro and I really have trouble understanding this concept. It really seems like it gives the judge incredible leeway (especially post twiqbal) to just take a case off the jury's plate even if considerable evidence would be available in trial through discovery. It just seems fundamentally unfair to plaintiffs, especially though who have to prove intent.


Anyone have any thoughts? How can I really tell if there is a genuine issue?

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Bildungsroman
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby Bildungsroman » Sat Apr 11, 2015 11:06 pm

The rule was updated in 2010. It's "genuine dispute" now.

And twiqbal were about 12b6, not summary judgment.

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zombie mcavoy
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby zombie mcavoy » Sat Apr 11, 2015 11:11 pm

ConfusedL1 wrote:It just seems fundamentally unfair to plaintiffs

well, plaintiffs can move for summary judgment, too.

and I don't understand the general issue. Are you conflating summary judgment and motions to dismiss?

Two lines from my liberty lobby notes:
- material fact = facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
- genuine dispute = the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby Capitol_Idea » Sat Apr 11, 2015 11:21 pm

Twombly/Iqbal are inconsistently applied, for a start.

Moreover, if you're seriously in Twiqbal territory as a plaintiff, then you done fucked up either filing prematurely, without some sufficient grounding in reasonableness, etc. Even if you made it past 12(b)6 you'd have a tough time getting far enough in Discovery to survive summary judgment.

Twiqbal also serves as a check against liberal discovery rules (FRCP 26 is mad open), so it keeps plaintiffs from bullying defendants with costly discovery requests if there's really no merit to the claim. Or so the theory goes.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby Germaine » Sat Apr 11, 2015 11:28 pm

Not sure if this helps it make more sense to you, but I think the trilogy approach was sort of a response to concerns in the 1980s about courts getting overburdened w/ less-than-meritorious suits (in part because of the relaxed pleading approach on the front end). So while some (you) might see it as unfair to non-moving parties, others might see it as a necessary course correction, putting power back in judges' hands to conserve scarce judicial resources.

To your specific question of how you can tell if there's a genuine issue, I mean that's sort of the classic law (school) problem: you can't. It's a judgment call. But mcavoy's quote from Anderson is about the best you can do: what would reasonable jury do?

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby BVest » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:21 am

Germaine wrote:To your specific question of how you can tell if there's a genuine issue, I mean that's sort of the classic law (school) problem: you can't. It's a judgment call. But mcavoy's quote from Anderson is about the best you can do: what would could reasonable jury do?

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:04 am

zombie mcavoy wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:It just seems fundamentally unfair to plaintiffs

well, plaintiffs can move for summary judgment, too.

and I don't understand the general issue. Are you conflating summary judgment and motions to dismiss?

Two lines from my liberty lobby notes:
- material fact = facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
- genuine dispute = the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party



Sorry, should have been more clear. I think the general pleading standard is already too extreme (mentioned it only as a side issue to show it's hard enough to get into courts anyway and judges have a lot of power), but I'm really talking about R56 motions (which still are genuine, right?). I guess it just bothers me that a judge could say "no reasonable person could infer this." Isn't that a question that goes to the heart of why we have juries in the first place?

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby TooOld4This » Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:25 am

ConfusedL1 wrote:
zombie mcavoy wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:It just seems fundamentally unfair to plaintiffs

well, plaintiffs can move for summary judgment, too.

and I don't understand the general issue. Are you conflating summary judgment and motions to dismiss?

Two lines from my liberty lobby notes:
- material fact = facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
- genuine dispute = the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party



Sorry, should have been more clear. I think the general pleading standard is already too extreme (mentioned it only as a side issue to show it's hard enough to get into courts anyway and judges have a lot of power), but I'm really talking about R56 motions (which still are genuine, right?). I guess it just bothers me that a judge could say "no reasonable person could infer this." Isn't that a question that goes to the heart of why we have juries in the first place?


There can always be abuse of judicial discretion, which is part of why there is appellate review. When you get to SJ, there are usually three piles of facts: ones where the parties agree, ones where the parties legitimately disagree and ones where the parties disagree without reasonable basis. Sorting out the last two categories is the genuine dispute call the judge is supposed to make. There will be hard calls there that will get appealed, but the rule is also very useful. Not every fact call needs to go to the jury. If the legal theory requires a fact that the sky on X day was neon green and there is no evidence to support it, you don't get to go to a jury just because you assert the sky was neon green and a jury might not believe the other side's copious evidence that it was actually blue. Genuine dispute means that you don't just get to disagree with asserted facts without backing it up with something credible. The rule recognizes that there is an interest in preventing parties from wasting a jury's time with assertions of fact that are inconsistent with the evidence.

Now, there is certainly an argument to be made that the line has been pushed too far away from allowing cases to go to a jury. But throwing out the rule without a serious look at what incentives it is pushing against is overly simplistic.
Last edited by TooOld4This on Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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El Pollito
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby El Pollito » Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:26 am

It's a really, really low standard in practice, so not sure what you're all hot and bothered about.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby TooOld4This » Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:49 am

El Pollito wrote:It's a really, really low standard in practice, so not sure what you're all hot and bothered about.


Usually. There are some areas of the law where the SJ standard generally tends to kill cases, and you will sometimes find that the genuine dispute standard gets wrapped up in that. (I'm guessing those are the types of cases that might have been covered in class.) But, yeah, the purpose of the rule is pretty non-controversial.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby zombie mcavoy » Sun Apr 12, 2015 11:21 am

ConfusedL1 wrote:I guess it just bothers me that a judge could say "no reasonable person could infer this." Isn't that a question that goes to the heart of why we have juries in the first place?

remember, summary judgment is also reviewed de novo. If you've produced so little evidence/have such a weak case that at least three of four federal judges think there is no way a reasonable jury could find for you, I don't see the problem in calling it good. This isn't criminal law.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:46 pm

TooOld4This wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:
zombie mcavoy wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:It just seems fundamentally unfair to plaintiffs

well, plaintiffs can move for summary judgment, too.

and I don't understand the general issue. Are you conflating summary judgment and motions to dismiss?

Two lines from my liberty lobby notes:
- material fact = facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
- genuine dispute = the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party



Sorry, should have been more clear. I think the general pleading standard is already too extreme (mentioned it only as a side issue to show it's hard enough to get into courts anyway and judges have a lot of power), but I'm really talking about R56 motions (which still are genuine, right?). I guess it just bothers me that a judge could say "no reasonable person could infer this." Isn't that a question that goes to the heart of why we have juries in the first place?


There can always be abuse of judicial discretion, which is part of why there is appellate review. When you get to SJ, there are usually three piles of facts: ones where the parties agree, ones where the parties legitimately disagree and ones where the parties disagree without reasonable basis. Sorting out the last two categories is the genuine dispute call the judge is supposed to make. There will be hard calls there that will get appealed, but the rule is also very useful. Not every fact call needs to go to the jury. If the legal theory requires a fact that the sky on X day was neon green and there is no evidence to support it, you don't get to go to a jury just because you assert the sky was neon green and a jury might not believe the other side's copious evidence that it was actually blue. Genuine dispute means that you don't just get to disagree with asserted facts without backing it up with something credible. The rule recognizes that there is an interest in preventing parties from wasting a jury's time with assertions of fact that are inconsistent with the evidence.

Now, there is certainly an argument to be made that the line has been pushed too far away from allowing cases to go to a jury. But throwing out the rule without a serious look at what incentives it is pushing against is overly simplistic.


I see. So how does this work with something like intent? Let's says law says you have to show something intentionally done. If company a says "I didn't know polluting this area would be an issue because no one visits it anyway" and group b says "Yes you did because I told you it would" but can't provide much evidence (their word against company's), would there not be enough evidence for an issue of genuine dispute?

Does this change if the law says courts have to defer to the company's decision/high bar to meet for intent?

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zombie mcavoy
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby zombie mcavoy » Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:53 pm

Remember that the same burden of proof standard is considered w/ sum judg. (Ie they have to prove it was 51% likely there was intent).

So i dont think it really makes a difference. but an element like that is probably more prone to/better going to a jury, I would imagine.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby LeDique » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:01 pm

ConfusedL1 wrote:
I see. So how does this work with something like intent? Let's says law says you have to show something intentionally done. If company a says "I didn't know polluting this area would be an issue because no one visits it anyway" and group b says "Yes you did because I told you it would" but can't provide much evidence (their word against company's), would there not be enough evidence for an issue of genuine dispute?

Does this change if the law says courts have to defer to the company's decision/high bar to meet for intent?


Well, typically, word against word is a great example of a dispute of material fact. It's purely a factual issue where the jury has to determine credibility, which should not be done by the judge on SJ, because on SJ, the judge construes the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (ie, he assumes credibility of them). So if P says "I told you about the risk," they're entitled to that evidence being taken as true unless there's reason to doubt it (ex: they say it happened when Joe told the CEO on April 5 in Cleveland, but the CEO was in Philadelphia). Then the question becomes whether the doubt is sufficient that no reasonable jury could conclude that P's version is true. So really it's two questions then (1) can a reasonable jury find this evidence credible and (2) if so, can a reasonably jury find that it would support a verdict in P's favor?

zombie mcavoy wrote:Remember that the same burden of proof standard is considered w/ sum judg. (Ie they have to prove it was 51% likely there was intent).

So i dont think it really makes a difference. but an element like that is probably more prone to/better going to a jury, I would imagine.


And yeah, citations that say "intent is an issue particularly unsuited for summary judgment" are dime a dozen.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:08 pm

ConfusedL1 wrote:I see. So how does this work with something like intent? Let's says law says you have to show something intentionally done. If company a says "I didn't know polluting this area would be an issue because no one visits it anyway" and group b says "Yes you did because I told you it would" but can't provide much evidence (their word against company's), would there not be enough evidence for an issue of genuine dispute?

It will partly depend on what you mean by "can't provide much evidence." If group b actually expects to be able to prove that they told company a something, they'd likely need to provide some kind of evidence (sworn affidavit from b's president stating he phoned the CEO of company directly on date whatever and said whatever, copies of correspondence/an e-mail chain, etc.). But it's not a really high bar actually to allege specific facts about what they told the company and when. The company's going to have a harder time proving a negative, so it would probably be difficult for the company to prevail at SJ.

But I also think the above is much more likely to be a legal issue than an evidentiary issue - if the company's defense is "I didn't know polluting would be an issue because no one goes there," that seems to me much more a legal question about what constitutes intent, rather than a factual question of whether the company really intended it or not. The company's clearly not contending it didn't pollute, so that fact isn't at issue. They're arguing about the legal significance of the pollution - whether it legally makes the company liable. Also, saying they didn't know polluting would matter in a specific location isn't the same as saying they didn't intend to pollute.
Does this change if the law says courts have to defer to the company's decision/high bar to meet for intent?

I'm not sure what you mean by this, but I think it again suggests that intent is a legal issue here, rather than a factual one.

Edit: I think LeDique and I aren't disagreeing here. Depends how intent works in this context.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:27 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:I see. So how does this work with something like intent? Let's says law says you have to show something intentionally done. If company a says "I didn't know polluting this area would be an issue because no one visits it anyway" and group b says "Yes you did because I told you it would" but can't provide much evidence (their word against company's), would there not be enough evidence for an issue of genuine dispute?

It will partly depend on what you mean by "can't provide much evidence." If group b actually expects to be able to prove that they told company a something, they'd likely need to provide some kind of evidence (sworn affidavit from b's president stating he phoned the CEO of company directly on date whatever and said whatever, copies of correspondence/an e-mail chain, etc.). But it's not a really high bar actually to allege specific facts about what they told the company and when. The company's going to have a harder time proving a negative, so it would probably be difficult for the company to prevail at SJ.

But I also think the above is much more likely to be a legal issue than an evidentiary issue - if the company's defense is "I didn't know polluting would be an issue because no one goes there," that seems to me much more a legal question about what constitutes intent, rather than a factual question of whether the company really intended it or not. The company's clearly not contending it didn't pollute, so that fact isn't at issue. They're arguing about the legal significance of the pollution - whether it legally makes the company liable. Also, saying they didn't know polluting would matter in a specific location isn't the same as saying they didn't intend to pollute.
Does this change if the law says courts have to defer to the company's decision/high bar to meet for intent?

I'm not sure what you mean by this, but I think it again suggests that intent is a legal issue here, rather than a factual one.

Edit: I think LeDique and I aren't disagreeing here. Depends how intent works in this context.


Thanks all that's helpful.

I want to review this question of law vs. fact question with the hypo:

Let's say company liable only if polluting is intentionally done on land used by nonprofit groups, otherwise it's totally OK. So, legal intent requires that the company pollute while KNOWING the group used it. To support their side, the nonprofit group only has an affidavit alleging a conversation where there told the company, but no other proof besides a bit of circumstantial stuff (maybe that other good land next to it wasn't used). Is that commonly unlikely to meet the 51% reasonable margin? I think my issue is that a judge gets to decide what's reasonable based on his/her own opinion before the jury does.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby LeDique » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:29 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:I see. So how does this work with something like intent? Let's says law says you have to show something intentionally done. If company a says "I didn't know polluting this area would be an issue because no one visits it anyway" and group b says "Yes you did because I told you it would" but can't provide much evidence (their word against company's), would there not be enough evidence for an issue of genuine dispute?

It will partly depend on what you mean by "can't provide much evidence." If group b actually expects to be able to prove that they told company a something, they'd likely need to provide some kind of evidence (sworn affidavit from b's president stating he phoned the CEO of company directly on date whatever and said whatever, copies of correspondence/an e-mail chain, etc.). But it's not a really high bar actually to allege specific facts about what they told the company and when. The company's going to have a harder time proving a negative, so it would probably be difficult for the company to prevail at SJ.

But I also think the above is much more likely to be a legal issue than an evidentiary issue - if the company's defense is "I didn't know polluting would be an issue because no one goes there," that seems to me much more a legal question about what constitutes intent, rather than a factual question of whether the company really intended it or not. The company's clearly not contending it didn't pollute, so that fact isn't at issue. They're arguing about the legal significance of the pollution - whether it legally makes the company liable. Also, saying they didn't know polluting would matter in a specific location isn't the same as saying they didn't intend to pollute.
Does this change if the law says courts have to defer to the company's decision/high bar to meet for intent?

I'm not sure what you mean by this, but I think it again suggests that intent is a legal issue here, rather than a factual one.

Edit: I think LeDique and I aren't disagreeing here. Depends how intent works in this context.


We're saying exactly the same thing. I assumed away Group B had that in the record via deposition testimony or an affidavit claiming that. I read the question as targeted at the factual issue, i.e., is he said/she said suited for summary judgment? The answer is generally no. An actual good summary judgment brief in this scenario would probably look like "accepting as true that the CEO was told, that does not qualify intent as a matter of law because…"

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby LeDique » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:31 pm

ConfusedL1 wrote:Thanks all that's helpful.

I want to review this question of law vs. fact question with the hypo:

Let's say company liable only if polluting is intentionally done on land used by nonprofit groups, otherwise it's totally OK. So, legal intent requires that the company pollute while KNOWING the group used it. To support their side, the nonprofit group only has an affidavit alleging a conversation where there told the company, but no other proof besides a bit of circumstantial stuff (maybe that other good land next to it wasn't used). Is that commonly unlikely to meet the 51% reasonable margin? I think my issue is that a judge gets to decide what's reasonable based on his/her own opinion before the jury does.


This turns solely on whether someone believes the affiant, meaning no, summary judgment would not be appropriate in this scenario because it's purely a factual dispute. The dispute is whether or not the conversation happened, right? It's not whether that conversation is sufficient as a matter of law to show intent, but whether it happened, as a matter of fact.

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:06 pm

LeDique wrote:We're saying exactly the same thing. I assumed away Group B had that in the record via deposition testimony or an affidavit claiming that. I read the question as targeted at the factual issue, i.e., is he said/she said suited for summary judgment? The answer is generally no. An actual good summary judgment brief in this scenario would probably look like "accepting as true that the CEO was told, that does not qualify intent as a matter of law because…"

Yup, exactly. Just wanted to be sure I understood correctly.
LeDique wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:Thanks all that's helpful.

I want to review this question of law vs. fact question with the hypo:

Let's say company liable only if polluting is intentionally done on land used by nonprofit groups, otherwise it's totally OK. So, legal intent requires that the company pollute while KNOWING the group used it. To support their side, the nonprofit group only has an affidavit alleging a conversation where there told the company, but no other proof besides a bit of circumstantial stuff (maybe that other good land next to it wasn't used). Is that commonly unlikely to meet the 51% reasonable margin? I think my issue is that a judge gets to decide what's reasonable based on his/her own opinion before the jury does.


This turns solely on whether someone believes the affiant, meaning no, summary judgment would not be appropriate in this scenario because it's purely a factual dispute. The dispute is whether or not the conversation happened, right? It's not whether that conversation is sufficient as a matter of law to show intent, but whether it happened, as a matter of fact.

Agreeing with LeDique again. It's really not that complicated or subjective enough for a judge to get to exercise his/her opinion. If it's a matter of fact - did this event actually happen? - the judge doesn't get to touch it, it goes to the jury (unless the claim is so incredibly conclusory there's nothing to go on, e.g. "the defendant polluted" without saying anything about when, where, how, to what damages). Sometimes it's a little complicated working out what's law and what's fact, I suppose (because parties try to disguise the one as the other to get around SJ or win SJ), and judges can get it wrong. But it's not really based on subjective opinion in the way you suggest.

(Iqbal - which as others have pointed out is about 12(b)(6), not MSJ - is a complicated case that can give the impression the judge is being unfair, but a MTD is different from a MSJ, and also 1983 claims are a huge mess. Iqbal as a case about pleading is kind of confusing in that respect because it helps to understand 1983 claims to know how the court got to where it did.)

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:09 pm

LeDique wrote:
ConfusedL1 wrote:Thanks all that's helpful.

I want to review this question of law vs. fact question with the hypo:

Let's say company liable only if polluting is intentionally done on land used by nonprofit groups, otherwise it's totally OK. So, legal intent requires that the company pollute while KNOWING the group used it. To support their side, the nonprofit group only has an affidavit alleging a conversation where there told the company, but no other proof besides a bit of circumstantial stuff (maybe that other good land next to it wasn't used). Is that commonly unlikely to meet the 51% reasonable margin? I think my issue is that a judge gets to decide what's reasonable based on his/her own opinion before the jury does.


This turns solely on whether someone believes the affiant, meaning no, summary judgment would not be appropriate in this scenario because it's purely a factual dispute. The dispute is whether or not the conversation happened, right? It's not whether that conversation is sufficient as a matter of law to show intent, but whether it happened, as a matter of fact.


Yes. So, here the only offset for disagreements like this are if the disagreement wasn't actually about something material?

Slight modied hypo:

The law now says that company only liable for polluting if it both knew people used the land AND that knowledge played a part in their decision to pollute (closer to intent)

So, let's say nonprofit and company really do disagree about whether the company should have known about the degree people used the land (company says yeah maybe should have known OK come huts there but we didn't think mattered), but, regardless, the difference is immaterial because that factor didn't play any part in their decision one way or the other (they just liked the land, people there wasn't an intentional part of their choice to pollute).

Does that make sense? Is there now no difference of material fact because the group doesn't have a way to show, even with the affidavit showing a disagreement about opinion, that the difference would have had a material effect?

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:16 pm

The parties still presumably disagree about whether the presence of people on the land played a part in the company's decision to pollute. The reason behind the decision is also a fact that can be disputed. The company will say "people being there wasn't a factor in our decision" and the nonprofit will say "yes it was." It will probably be tougher to prove that at trial, and if you get to trial and have nothing at all to back up the factual claims you made at SJ, you may be subject to sanctions, but it's still a factual dispute.

You're right that if the nonprofit agrees that yes, the presence of people couldn't have influenced the company's decision to pollute, then it doesn't really matter if the company knew, so no material dispute.

(But just to nitpick: when you say the nonprofit/company disagree about whether the company "should have known" about the presence of people, that's probably back into the legal realm again. If that's the case, both parties agree there was some evidence - huts or whatever - that people lived there, they disagree about whether that evidence was legally sufficient to put the company on notice. There may also be a factual dispute about what the evidence actually is - nonprofit says, "there were legions of summer homes!" and the company says "there were a couple of unlived in beat-up shacks" - so at trial, the parties would have to offer testimony about what was actually there, and the jury would have to decide whether it was a summer homes or huts or something in between. THEN the jury would take the law - given by the judge - and apply it to the facts to decide whether huts/summer homes/whatever were enough to constitute legal notice that people lived there.)

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby ConfusedL1 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 6:48 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:The parties still presumably disagree about whether the presence of people on the land played a part in the company's decision to pollute. The reason behind the decision is also a fact that can be disputed. The company will say "people being there wasn't a factor in our decision" and the nonprofit will say "yes it was." It will probably be tougher to prove that at trial, and if you get to trial and have nothing at all to back up the factual claims you made at SJ, you may be subject to sanctions, but it's still a factual dispute.

You're right that if the nonprofit agrees that yes, the presence of people couldn't have influenced the company's decision to pollute, then it doesn't really matter if the company knew, so no material dispute.

(But just to nitpick: when you say the nonprofit/company disagree about whether the company "should have known" about the presence of people, that's probably back into the legal realm again. If that's the case, both parties agree there was some evidence - huts or whatever - that people lived there, they disagree about whether that evidence was legally sufficient to put the company on notice. There may also be a factual dispute about what the evidence actually is - nonprofit says, "there were legions of summer homes!" and the company says "there were a couple of unlived in beat-up shacks" - so at trial, the parties would have to offer testimony about what was actually there, and the jury would have to decide whether it was a summer homes or huts or something in between. THEN the jury would take the law - given by the judge - and apply it to the facts to decide whether huts/summer homes/whatever were enough to constitute legal notice that people lived there.)


Thanks that's really helpful. To continue on this hypo train:

Governing law: company must (1) know about people living there (2) decide to pollute because of that. (Basically, not enough to know, have to use that info. The rationale for the law isn't important, but maybe the idea is to hold companies liable that purposely try to drive others off land, but not put liability on companies that accidentally pollute).

Company and nonprofit agree that land maybe was being used (they differ on the DEGREE of use necessary to meet first factor), but definitely differ on whether that played any role in company's decision to pollute. Company argues that, sure, you told us there were people there, but we didn't think it was important enough to play a part in our decision making process (based on going to the land and seeing there wasn't much going on and that nonprofit only told them one time about it). Nonprofit argues that company sure as hell knew how important it was and that, given that they knew, it obviously played a part in the decision to pollute (but only evidence is based on affidavit testimony off one conversation).

You're saying that this disagreement is essentially a legal decision because we have to determine whether it was reasonable to infer from knowing that it played a part in the company's decision?

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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:40 pm

I'm saying that the disagreement over whether the company "knew" there were people present - the first factor - is probably a legal decision if the dispute is that the nonprofit says "you knew there were people there" and the company says "we knew there were people there but we didn't think it mattered," or essentially, we didn't know [or, more likely in a response, we don't believe] that degree of use was enough use to trigger the anti-pollution rule. That's a different scenario from the company saying "we had no idea there were people there and you can't prove we did," and seems to take it into a legal realm (though this would depend on the actual law of course).

This is completely separate from the issue of whether the company polluted because people were there. Certainly if the company denies knowing there were ever any people on the land, ever, it's going to be harder for the nonprofit to prove they polluted because people were there; it's easier for the nonprofit to say the company used that knowledge to pollute if the company says "we knew they were there but didn't think it was important." But if the company denies every knowing people were there, no SJ because that's a disputed material fact, so you don't worry about the second factor (for SJ purposes). If the company says, we knew they were there, then the parties probably dispute whether that knowledge influenced the company's decision, so still no SJ.

However, if the parties agree on the actual chain of events leading up to the decision - say that the company has disclosed a whole series of e-mails/meetings minutes/affidavits/whatever that outline the actual decision-making process, and the nonprofit agrees that that was in fact how the decision was made - the case could be resolved through SJ to one side or the other, because the judge would determine whether the facts of the how the decision was made are legally sufficient to prove that the decision was made because of the people being there, rather than despite them being there. Chances are good that the nonprofit would probably not agree on the facts of the decision-making process and offer additional evidence to prove their side, which would be a factual dispute for the jury. But if, theoretically, both sides agreed 100% about how the decision was reached, then whether that was because or despite people being present will be legal determination for the judge.

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UnicornHunter
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby UnicornHunter » Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:46 pm

Reasonable =/ 51%

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zombie mcavoy
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Re: Genuine Issues of Material Fact

Postby zombie mcavoy » Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:01 pm

TheUnicornHunter wrote:Reasonable =/ 51%

yeah OP you're confusing the summary judgment standard and the burden of proof (ie preponderance of the evidence/more likely than not. I don't know if I'd say 51% on an exam though if my prof didn't say it (mine did, at least informally)).

Again, the genuine dispute w/r/t summary judgment = the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party (the verdict being that it is more likely than not (or 51% likely (as opposed to, say, in criminal law, beyond any reasonable doubt)).




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