The Cure for a B.S. Answer is the Power of a Motion for Summary Judgment

“All litigants have the right to defend themselves,” I tell my clients when I’ve received a B.S. Answer to a Complaint I’ve filed. As you know, I usually represent banks and other creditors, and, frankly, there are not many defenses to the lawsuits I generally file.

I generally have to prove: (1) the Defendant signed the Note; (2) the Plaintiff loaned money; (3) the Defendant didn’t pay the money back; and (4) how much wasn’t paid back.

Sometimes, the defendant calls and simply concedes judgment and, instead, focuses on the real issue at stake (setting a reasonable and “livable” repayment schedule). One of the results of a generally improving economy, however, is that a defendant may not have enough money to repay the debt, but they’ve got enough money to put up a little bit of fight.

In most cases, this involves “delay” tactics. In the Answer, the defendant will raise no real factual or legal defense, but they’ll deny everything, demanding that the plaintiff “prove” the facts.

That’s when I file a Motion for Summary Judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which is a Motion that tells the Court that: (1) the material facts are not disputed (or cannot be disputed); and (2) on those undisputed facts, the plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In response, a defendant’s broad denial of all facts will not win. Instead, Rule 56.03 says that a defendant must “demonstrate” that an important fact is disputed. If a fact is disputed, the defendant must support the denial with a specific citation to an affidavit or a deposition.   A general denial isn’t enough.

This focus on the need to “demonstrate” that relevant facts are disputed was discussed recently in Discover Bank Issuer of Discover Card v. Layton Howell, III,  No. M2013-00485-COA-R3-CV  (Tenn. Crt. Apps. Nov. 8, 2013).

Keep this case in your tool-box for the next time that a defendant tries to delay the inevitable without concrete facts.

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