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Case: Celotex Corp. v.

Catrett (1986, US) [CB 516-521]

Facts: Catrett brought claim against Celotex, alleging that her husband's death
resulted from products containing asbestos manufactured or distributed by 15 named
corporations. Celotex motioned for summary judgment, district court granted it,,
but appellate court reversed. Now before Supreme court.
○ Df argument for summary judgment: Catrett failed to produce evidence that
Dfs were proximate cause of husband's death
• Catrett sued for her husband's wrongful death caused by Celotex's asbestos. At
trial Catrett, the P, had to prove that. After a year of discovery, celotex moved
for summary judgment, that there was no evidence that Celotex was responsible for
death, and also that P had no evidence. P offered docs, but Court granted summary
• You would expect that she would appeal that the docs she presented could lead to
jury concluding for her, and summary judgment incorrectly granted, b/c there had
to be a trial.
• But what she argued on appeal, was that she doesn’t have to respond to summary
judgment motion that there are sufficient facts to keep her going, but the burden
is on celotex to show that she cant possibly win at trial, not that she has burden
to prove she might win. Court of appeals accepts this.

Issue: Whether the court can grant a Rule 56 summary judgment motion.

Holding: remanded

○ Court says Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery … against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a
situation, there can be "no genuine issue as to any material fact," since a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's
case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party would
therefore be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
○ Appellate court reversed the summary judgment b/c Celotex failed to
support its motion with affidavits or other materials negating the opponent's
§ However, Rule 56(c) does not expressly or impliedly require this; but
merely permits the use of affidavits, "if any," to support the motion.
§ Court says burden to produce evidence showing the absence of genuine
issue of material fact is not on the moving party. Instead the burden is to show
that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
□ Also, court notes that nonmoving party had time for discovery,
and the motion was not premature.
○ Court says: summary judgment is a tool by which factually insufficient
claims or defenses could be isolated and prevented from going to trial. It's
designed "to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every

○ Agrees with court's analysis, but thinks there should be more guidance
given to district courts.
§ Believes that Celotex did not meet its burden of production under
Rule 56. Rule 56's burden of production satisfied in 2 ways:
□ The moving party may submit affirmative evidence that negates
an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.
□ The moving party may demonstrate to the Court that the
nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of
the nonmoving party's claim
® If moving party uses this option, solely an assertion
that nonmoving party has no evidence is insufficient. Instead, they must
affirmatively show the absence of the evidence in the record.
® The nonmoving party may then defeat the motion for
summary judgment that asserts the nonmoving party has no evidence by calling the
court's attention to supporting evidence in the record that was overlooked or
ignored by the moving party.
Rule: A party may be entitled to summary judgment by showing that the party
bearing the burden of persuasion at trial will not be able to prove an element
essential to its case, based on the record.

Notes and Problems: [CB 519]

○ Court did not decide who should prevail on the summary judgment motion; it
only set out a new standard for summary judgment and remanding for the lower
courts to decide the case using the new standard.

• One of three cases that came down around the time in the Supreme Court, that
made it seem that supreme court making it easier to get summary judgment. That
was proved to be false.
• Observe that the disposition of Supreme Court is that they sent case back to
court of appeals to decide if letters P put in were sufficient to create an issue
of fact.
○ If your burden at trial is to show by preponderance of the evidence that
your story is correct, then at summary judgment, you have to put in enough that a
reasonable jury could find that.
• At summary judgment, court is supposed to favor the non-moving party. The
presumption is that there will be a trial.
○ The moving party bears the party to prove there should be summary
§ Celotex did this by saying the evidence she claims is a dispute of
fact, is not enough for her to prevail at trial. In this case, the D is entitled
to summary judgment.
• On remand from SC, the DC circuit did what it would have done if P had made the
appropriate argument in the 1st appeal, and concluded that there was an issue for
○ Issue; that if jury believed all evidence, then it would find for P.
○ Then remanded for trial.