Law Lessons from FRANK ALFANO, JR. VS. PATROLMAN PIERCE SCHAUD, ET AL., __ N.J. Super. __ (App. Div. 2013), A-1379-11T2, February 14, 2013:
Summary judgment must be granted if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact challenged and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment or order as a matter of law.” R. 4:46-2(c); Brill, supra, 142 N.J. at 528-29. The “essence of the inquiry” is “‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.’” Brill, supra, 142 N.J. at 536 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 251-52, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 214 (1986)). The Brill Court explained the process:
Of course, there is in this process a kind of weighing that involves a type of evaluation, analysis and sifting of evidential materials. This process, however, is not the same kind of weighing that a factfinder (judge or jury) engages in when assessing the preponderance or credibility of evidence. On a motion for summary judgment the court must grant all the favorable inferences to the non-movant. But the ultimate factfinder may pick and choose inferences from the evidence to the extent that “a miscarriage of justice under the law” is not created.
[142 N.J. at 536.]
At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a “genuine” dispute as to those facts. Shelcusky v. Garjulio, 343 N.J. Super. 504, 510 (App. Div. 2001), rev’d on other grounds, 172 N.J. 185 (2002). “When the moving party has carried its burden . . ., its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 552 (1986) (footnote omitted). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., supra, 477 U.S. at 247-48, 106 S. Ct. at 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d at 211.
So for instance, although an appellate court is not to pass upon the credibility of the parties, “we are not required to accept, as competent evidence, a purely self-serving certification by plaintiff that directly contradicts his prior representations in an effort to create an issue of fact, which his previous testimony had eliminated.” Shelcusky, supra, 343 N.J. Super. at 510. “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686, 694 (2007). “Normally . . . discredited testimony is not considered a sufficient basis for drawing a contrary conclusion.” Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 466 U.S. 485, 512, 104 S. Ct. 1949, 1966, 80 L. Ed. 2d 502, 524 (1984).
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