In Chancery Court litigation, when I’m the movant on a motion for summary judgment, I sometimes describe my potential outcomes as “Win” or “Not Win.”
In short, I’m either going to win my case on summary grounds or not, but, as the moving party, I’m not going to lose the case, unless the other side files their own “counter” motion seeking summary judgment.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued an opinion yesterday that confirms this, at Adrian Lynn McWilliams, et. al. v. Brenda Vaughn, et. al. (No. E2017-01942-COA-R3-CV, Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2019).
In that opinion, the Court wrote that, when faced with cross-motions for summary judgment, “a court must rule independently on each motion and determine, with regard to each motion, whether disputes of material fact with regard to that motion exist.” Savage v. City of Memphis, 464 S.W.3d 326, 332 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) (citing CAO Holdings, Inc. v. Trost, 333 S.W.3d 73, 82 (Tenn. 2010)). Further, “the denial of one party’s motion for summary judgment does not necessarily imply that the other party’s motion should be granted.” Id. Rather, when considering cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must determine whether each party is “independently entitled to summary judgment.” Id.
To be clear, where one party’s motion for summary judgment is denied does not necessarily mean that the other party is entitled to prevail, even if they filed their own motion. Id. That’s because there are all kinds of factors that go into whether to grant or deny a summary judgment motion.
But, the Court went on to note, where the other side doesn’t file a competing motion, that other, non-moving party is definitely not entitled to an award of summary judgment. Id. In order to be granted summary judgment, you have to be a “moving” party.
So, in the end, keep this opinion handy when you’re preparing for a summary judgment hearing, where the opposing party doesn’t file its own motion. There, it’s a “Win/Not Win” situation for you.