Motion practice is true courtroom drama where a party seeks relief from the Court. This can be anything from a motion to dismiss a case for failure to state a claim, to a motion to compel discovery. Seasoned litigators know motion practice is the art of connecting discovery to the law in order for a Judge to grant a motion in your favor. This requires being able to quickly find supporting evidence in a review application for an argument. Everlaw’s StoryBuilder® and Chronology tools empower attorneys to organize supporting evidence in a motion that have been identified in document review.
The first motion I wrote was for summary adjudication in a construction defect case. We represented a subcontractor who worked on a handful of houses in a large development. Our motion for summary adjudication was to knock out causes of action against our client on the grounds the latent defects were discovered after the ten-year statute of limitations period.
We did not have a review application for the documents in the case. Bankers boxes filled a giant conference room. I spent six hours looking for three certificates of completion that were necessary for the motion. After looking well into the night to find the supporting documents, I still had to write the motion. It was worth it, but there was significant time lost for which I could not bill the client.
Review applications should make those situations a thing of the past. Moreover, review applications can be used for more than document review. Read on for a step-by-step workflow for building a motion with Everlaw’s StoryBuilder and Chronology tools.
Consider a construction defect case where a defendant has brought a motion for summary adjudication on the grounds that breach of warranty claims for latent defects are barred by the ten-year statute of limitations for multiple homes in a housing development.
Step 1: Define the Framework
The first step is to define the legal framework for the motion. In California, no action can be brought against the developer of real property more than 10 years after the substantial completion of the development for a latent design defect.1
A motion for summary adjudication is to eliminate a specific cause of action or claim for damages on the grounds the cause of action has no merit.2 A moving party has met their burden that a cause of action has no merit if there is a complete defense to a cause of action or an element of a cause of action cannot be established.3
For our hypothetical, the Defendant must show there is a complete defense to the latent defect claims because more than ten years has passed since the completion of the housing development since the claims were discovered.
The evidence to support our motion for summary adjudication will include the certificates of completion for the different houses in the litigation, contracts showing which houses the defendant worked on in the housing development, and when the plaintiffs discovered the claimed defects on the homes.
The first step in creating your outline is identifying the key dates in the lawsuit. In this hypothetical, when were the certificates of completion issued? When did the Plaintiffs discover any defects? When was the lawsuit filed? These can be created as Events on StoryBuilder Chronology that include information about the plaintiffs, including profiles on each, and related properties.
Timing matters in proving that the causes of action are barred by the statute of limitations. The documents identified in document review that are added to the Chronology can be used in the StoryBuilder Summary Adjudication Outline. This will empower the lawyers building the motion to quickly organize the supporting evidence.
Review attorneys should identify the certificates of completion for any homes built by the Defendant, in order to identify the start date for the statute of limitations for latent defects. Alternatively, if the plaintiffs discovered the defect within the ten-year period, then the defects were no longer latent, thus would be subject to the three-year statute of limitations for injury to real property.4 Supporting records for these arguments can be added to the Chronology and Outlines as they are identified by the attorneys.
Documents that are added to a Chronology can be coded for issues, labeled, and annotated on why it is relevant. Attorneys can also modify the Bates Number to be changed to a specific name (this does not change the Bates Number in the actual database). Seeing #218275 in a Chronology is not as helpful as seeing “Certificate of Completion for 1870 Nautilus Way” or “Plaintiff Facebook Complaint.”
The dates for the Chronology are pulled from the metadata of the record. The record can be labeled for specific Events and issue coding. These records can be sorted by Events or keywords. This information can be exported, which could be used in a statement of undisputed facts.
Step 3: Prepare Your Outline
Structure your outline in StoryBuilder as the law requires for your motion. The following outline for the motion for summary adjudication will be based on the structure for making the motion pursuant to the Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c and Cal Rules of Court, Rule 3.1350, to prove the complete defense stated in Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337.15(a)(1) that a claim is barred by the ten-year statute of limitations for latent defects.
The records that have been added to the Summary Adjudication outline from the Chronology will appear on the right side of the Outline page. These records can be added directly to the sections of the Outline that support the requirements for the motion. Relevant pages of documents can be bookmarked after they have been added to an outline.
Attorneys can be invited as collaborators in preparing the outline. The attorneys preparing the motion might not have been the ones who did document review. One of the review attorneys could help add records to the outline for the attorneys preparing the motion.
Each part of the motion can be prepared in StoryBuilder. However, there are attorneys who might want to export the outline from Everlaw to PDF or Word, after the supporting records have been identified and placed in the statement of facts and in the supporting evidence. The supporting exhibits will appear as live Everlaw document links after export. Alternatively, a final offline version of the motion can be exported as a PDF with hyperlinked images of the supporting exhibits.
Step 4: Tell Your Story
Filing a motion can be a stress filled experience of finding supporting exhibits, keeping everything organized, and submitting a well-written motion that is supported by evidence. StoryBuilder Outline and Chronology empower attorneys to have command over the facts in their case and connect the right supporting documents to prove their arguments in court.
1See, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337.15(a)(1).
2See, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(f)(1).
3Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(p)(2).
4See, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338(b) and Mills v. Forestex Co., 108 Cal. App. 4th 625, 633 (2003).