Picture this: you filed a lawsuit and you’re ready for your day in Court. Or, one of your days more like it. You prepare to address the issues the opposing party is fighting you on…but then the Trial Judge throws a curve ball and expects you to address another issue. An issue no party raised and which shouldn’t legally be decided at that specific day in Court.
There’s a winding road of facts and procedure in Luebke, but the main points are: Plaintiff filed a case against AAA (Automobile Club of Southern California), and AAA filed a Motion for Summary Judgement (MSJ) against Plaintiff basically saying “Plaintiff, even if we don’t dispute the facts you say, there still is no legal case against us.”
Now, with an MSJ the Judge is supposed to focus on the issues raised in the MSJ. But here, the Trial Judge decided an issue Defendant did NOT raise in the MSJ.
Again, with an MSJ, we’re assuming the facts are undisputed between the parties. So at this hearing when the Judge asks Plaintiffs about how they can prove another point NOT in the MSJ, this left Plaintiff stammering…and the Court said basically “see, I knew you didn’t have the facts to prove that part of the case!” Maybe a maniacal laugh or two.
Plaintiff appealed that ruling and the Court agreed with Plaintiff. “The trial court misunderstood the law, as well as its obligations in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” With that “the trial court deprived Luebke of his right to oppose summary judgment.” “Its ruling cannot stand.” Or if we wanted to say this last part in the style of Lebowski: Its ruling cannot stand, man.