Dresher v. Burt, No. 94-2612

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS; White; PFEIFER; MOYER; PFEIFER; COOK; MOYER, C.J., and WRIGHT
Citation75 Ohio St.3d 280,662 N.E.2d 264
Decision Date06 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 94-2612
PartiesDRESHER et al., Appellees, v. BURT; St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Appellant.

Page 280

75 Ohio St.3d 280
662 N.E.2d 264
DRESHER et al., Appellees,
v.
BURT; St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Appellant.
No. 94-2612.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted Jan. 10, 1996.
Decided March 6, 1996.

Page 285

Dinsmore & Shohl, K.C. Green, Deborah R. Lydon and Sara Sinrall Rorer, Cincinnati, for appellant.

Dale E. Creech, Jr., Dayton, urging reversal for amicus curiae, Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys.

Bricker & Eckler, James J. Hughes, Jr., and Catherine M. Ballard, Columbus, urging reversal for amicus curiae, Ohio Hospital Association.

DOUGLAS, Justice.

The sole issue in this appeal involves the standards for granting summary judgment when the moving party asserts that the nonmoving party has no evidence to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case. In particular, the issue certified to this court by the Court of Appeals for Montgomery County is, "[m]ay a court grant summary judgment when neither the movant nor the non-movant provides evidentiary materials demonstrating that there are no material facts in dispute and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law?" (Emphasis sic.) Resolution of this issue requires an interpretation of Civ.R. 56, a detailed review of Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265, and an examination of our holding in paragraph three of the syllabus in Wing, supra, 59 Ohio St.3d 108, 570 N.E.2d 1095.

In Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265, Myrtle Catrett ("Catrett"), administrator of the estate of her deceased husband, Louis H. Catrett, filed a wrongful death action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against fifteen named corporations. In the complaint, Catrett alleged that her husband's death had been caused by exposure to products containing asbestos that had been manufactured or distributed by the defendants. Several of the defendants, including the Celotex Corporation ("Celotex"), filed motions for summary judgment. In support of its motion, Celotex argued that summary judgment was proper because Catrett had " 'failed to produce evidence that any [Celotex] product * * * was the proximate cause of the injuries alleged within the jurisdictional limits of [the District] Court.' " Id. at 319-320, 106 S.Ct. at 2551, 91 L.Ed.2d at 272. In particular, Celotex noted that Catrett had failed to identify, in answering interrogatories specifically requesting such information, any witnesses who could testify about the decedent's exposure to Celotex's asbestos products. Catrett responded to the motion for summary judgment and produced three documents to counter Celotex's assertions. The three documents included a transcript of a deposition, a letter from an official of one of the decedent's former employers whom Catrett planned to call as a witness at trial, and a letter from an insurance company to Catrett's attorney. These documents tended to establish that the decedent had been exposed to Celotex's asbestos products in Chicago in 1970 and 1971. Catrett claimed that the three documents demonstrated that there was a genuine and material factual

Page 286

dispute concerning the decedent's exposure to Celotex's asbestos products. With respect to this evidence, Celotex asserted that the three documents were inadmissible hearsay and thus could not be considered[662 N.E.2d 269] in opposition to Celotex's motion for summary judgment.

The district court in Celotex granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that there was " 'no showing that the plaintiff was exposed to the defendant Celotex's product in the District of Columbia or elsewhere within the statutory period.' " Id., 477 U.S. at 320, 106 S.Ct. at 2551, 91 L.Ed.2d at 272. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a split decision, reversed the judgment of the district court. Catrett v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp. (C.A.D.C.1985), 756 F.2d 181. The court of appeals' majority stated, in part:

"We need not, however, reach the evidentiary issue [raised by Celotex that none of the evidence produced by Catrett in response to the motion for summary judgment would have been admissible at trial], inasmuch as defendant's [Celotex's] moving papers were patently defective on their face, rendering inappropriate the grant of summary judgment on the record as it stood before the District Court. Celotex offered no affidavits, declarations or evidence of any sort whatever in support of its summary judgment motion. To the contrary, Celotex's motion was based solely on the plaintiff's purported failure to produce credible evidence to support her claim. While Celotex may have faced difficulty, to be sure, in 'proving the negative' that plaintiff's decedent had not been exposed to its products, * * * [Celotex] made no effort to adduce any evidence, in the form of affidavits or otherwise, to support its motion. * * * [T]hat undisputed failure renders its motion fatally defective." (Emphasis sic and footnotes omitted.) Catrett, supra, 756 F.2d at 184.

In Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. Justice (now Chief Justice) Rehnquist authored the lead opinion in Celotex, which mustered the full support of Justices Marshall, Powell and O'Conner. Justice White concurred separately. Id. at 328-329, 106 S.Ct. at 2555, 91 L.Ed.2d at 277 (White, J., concurring). Justice Brennan, joined by then Chief Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun, dissented. Id. at 329-337, 106 S.Ct. at 2555-2560, 91 L.Ed.2d at 277-282 (Brennan, J., dissenting). Justice Stevens also filed a separate dissenting opinion. Id. at 337-339, 106 S.Ct. at 2560-2561, 91 L.Ed.2d at 283-284 (Stevens, J., dissenting). Virtually all of the Justices agreed that the court of appeals had erred in concluding that Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 requires a defendant seeking summary judgment to produce affirmative evidence disproving ("negating") the plaintiff's case. We quote, at length, from the lead opinion in Celotex, because, with all due respect to the United States Supreme Court, its

Page 287

opinion in Celotex is somewhat confusing as to the appropriate standard for granting summary judgment in cases where the moving party asserts that the nonmoving party has no evidence to establish a material element of the nonmoving party's case. In the lead opinion in Celotex, Justice Rehnquist offered the following analysis of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 5:

[662 N.E.2d 270] "The majority of the Court of Appeals held that petitioner's [Celotex's] summary judgment motion was rendered 'fatally defective' by the fact that petitioner 'made no effort to adduce any evidence, in the form of affidavits or otherwise, to support its motion.' * * * [Catrett, supra, 756 F.2d at 184] (emphasis in original). According to the majority, Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and this Court's decision in * * * [Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co. (1970), 398 U.S. 144, 159, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1609, 26 L.Ed.2d 142, 155], establish that 'the party opposing the motion for summary judgment bears the burden of responding only after the moving party has met its burden of coming forward with proof of the absence of any genuine issues of material fact.' * * * [Catrett, supra, 756 F.2d at 184] (emphasis in original; footnote omitted). The majority therefore declined to consider petitioner's argument that none of the

Page 288

evidence produced by respondent [Catrett] in opposition to the motion for summary judgment would have been admissible at trial. * * *

"We think that the position taken by the majority of the Court of Appeals is inconsistent with the standard for summary judgment set forth in Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper '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 and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.' In our view, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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 is 'entitled to a judgment as a matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof. * * *

"Of course, a party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. But unlike the Court of Appeals, we find no express or implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim. On the contrary, Rule 56(c), which refers to 'the affidavits, if any ' (emphasis added), suggests the absence of such a requirement. And if there were any doubt about the meaning of Rule 56(c) in this regard, such doubt is clearly removed by Rules 56(a) and (b), which provide that claimants and defendants, respectively, may move for summary judgment 'with or without supporting affidavits ' (emphasis added). The import of these subsections is that, regardless of whether the moving party accompanies its summary judgment motion with...

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  • Abon, Ltd. v. Transcontinental Ins. Co., 2005 Ohio 3052 (OH 6/16/2005), Case No. 2004-CA-0029.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • June 16, 2005
    ...issue of material fact for trial. Vahila v. Hall, 77 Ohio St.3d 421, 429, 1997-Ohio-259, 674 N.E.2d 1164, citing Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 295, 1996-Ohio-107, 662 N.E.2d 264. Page 10 {¶37} To grant a motion for summary judgment brought by an insurer on the issue of whether it lack......
  • Hersh v. Grumer, 109430
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • July 29, 2021
    ...a genuine issue for trial. Crenshaw v. Cleveland Law Dept, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 108519, 2020-Ohio-921, ¶ 33, citing Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 292-293, 1996-Ohio-107, 662 N.E.2d 264. {¶ 60} I would sustain Hersh's assigned errors as presented and conclude that the trial court err......
  • Lawarre v. Fifth Third Sec., Inc., APPEAL NO. C-110302
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 5, 2012
    ...reciprocal burden to set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact existed for trial. See Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293, 662 N.E.2d 264 (1996); Stinespring v. Natorp Garden Stores, 127 Ohio App.3d 213, 216, 711 N.E.2d 1104 (1st Dist.1998). {¶25} We find no......
  • Aldridge v. Reckart Equip. Co., 2006 Ohio 4964 (Ohio App. 9/19/2006), No. 04CA17.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 19, 2006
    ...identify those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence Page 12 of a material fact. Vahila, supra; Dresher v. Burt (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293, 662 N.E.2d 264, 273. The moving party cannot discharge its initial burden with a conclusory assertion that the nonmoving party has no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8734 cases
  • Abon, Ltd. v. Transcontinental Ins. Co., 2005 Ohio 3052 (OH 6/16/2005), Case No. 2004-CA-0029.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • June 16, 2005
    ...issue of material fact for trial. Vahila v. Hall, 77 Ohio St.3d 421, 429, 1997-Ohio-259, 674 N.E.2d 1164, citing Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 295, 1996-Ohio-107, 662 N.E.2d 264. Page 10 {¶37} To grant a motion for summary judgment brought by an insurer on the issue of whether it lack......
  • Hersh v. Grumer, 109430
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • July 29, 2021
    ...a genuine issue for trial. Crenshaw v. Cleveland Law Dept, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 108519, 2020-Ohio-921, ¶ 33, citing Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 292-293, 1996-Ohio-107, 662 N.E.2d 264. {¶ 60} I would sustain Hersh's assigned errors as presented and conclude that the trial court err......
  • Lawarre v. Fifth Third Sec., Inc., APPEAL NO. C-110302
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 5, 2012
    ...reciprocal burden to set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact existed for trial. See Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293, 662 N.E.2d 264 (1996); Stinespring v. Natorp Garden Stores, 127 Ohio App.3d 213, 216, 711 N.E.2d 1104 (1st Dist.1998). {¶25} We find no......
  • Aldridge v. Reckart Equip. Co., 2006 Ohio 4964 (Ohio App. 9/19/2006), No. 04CA17.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 19, 2006
    ...identify those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence Page 12 of a material fact. Vahila, supra; Dresher v. Burt (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293, 662 N.E.2d 264, 273. The moving party cannot discharge its initial burden with a conclusory assertion that the nonmoving party has no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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