Civil Procedure II, Pages 583–586

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett

Supreme Court of the United States, 1986

Facts:

Plaintiff connected this suit alleging that the death of her husband resulted from his exposure to to products containing asbestos manufactured or distributed by 15 named companies.

Procedural History:

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment for lack of proximate cause. In response, plaintiff produced a transcript of a deposition of the decedent, a letter from an official of decedent's former employers whom defendant planned to call as a witness, and a letter from an insurance company to plaintiff's attorney.

The District Court granted the motion because "there [was] no showing that the plaintiff was exposed to the defendant Celotex's product . . . within the statutory period."

The court of appeals reversed.

Issue:

Does the party moving for a summary judgment have to support its motion with an affidavit or similar evidence negating the opponent's claims?

Defendant's Argument:

Plaintiff "failed to produce evidence that any [Celotex] product . . . was the proximate cause of the injuries alleged within the jurisdictional limits of [the District] Court." Specifically, plaintiff failed to identify any witnesses who could testify about the decedent's exposure to defendant's asbestos products. The documents plaintiff produced are inadmissible.

Reasoning:

While a movant does have to "show" that there is an absence of evidecne to support the other party's case, this merely consists of point it out to the court. He does not have a burden to produce evidence showing the absence.

Rule/Holding:

No, the party moving for a summary judgment does not have to support its motion with an affidavit.

Judgment:

Reversed and remanded.

Concurring Opinion:

White:

One cannot move for summary judgment with only a conclusory allegation and nothing supporting it.

Defendant agrees that if plaintiff has named a witness to support her claim, summary judgment should not be granted unless they could somehow show that the witness's testimony would raise no genuine issue of material fact. However, they assert that plaintiff has failed to produce any basis for her case. Yet plaintiff insists that she has revealed enough to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Because this was not addressed, the case should be remanded for further proceedings.

Takeaway:

The moving party has the initial duty of production, then the respondent has a duty of production of evidence that there is a "genuine dispute as to a material fact."

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