In an Atlanta sexual harassment claim filed under Georgia state law or federal law, the defendant will likely seek to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed on summary judgment prior to trial. Summary judgment is only appropriate in cases in which there are no genuine issues of material fact. This is because factual issues are to be determined by the finder of fact – typically a jury, but sometimes a trial court judge – during the trial, not beforehand by a motion judge.
Not just “any” dispute of fact will prevent a decision granting summary judgment (and, most likely ending the plaintiff’s case). Rather, only disputes in which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment are considered “genuine issues of material fact.” Even though the nonmoving party may ultimately bear the burden of proof at trial, it is the party who seeks summary judgment who has the burden of showing an absence of genuine factual issues that must be resolved at trial.
In attempting to meet this burden, the party seeking summary judgment may rely on the parties’ pleadings, any depositions that have been taken during the discovery phase of the litigation, the parties answers to interrogatories and requests for admissions, affidavits, and the like. Of course, the party opposing the motion may point to similar evidence in resisting the motion. Ultimately, it is up to the trial court judge to decide whether the matter will end with summary judgment or proceed toward trial.