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CONWAY CORP. v. AHLEMEYER

January 7, 1991

CONWAY CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
CARL H. AHLEMEYER, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

 MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This Court's November 16, 1990, 754 F. Supp. 596, memorandum opinion and order (the "Opinion") provided a detailed factual and legal analysis to explain its conclusion that plaintiff Conway Corporation ("Conway") was entitled to the summary judgment that it had sought under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56 against former Illinois Pork Corporation shareholders (collectively "Shareholders") Carl Ahlemeyer, Sash Spencer and Charles Merrick ("Merrick"). On November 30 Shareholders moved to amend the judgment solely as to the amount of damages recoverable by Conway. In support of that motion Shareholders tendered via affidavits a number of factual assertions that they had not chosen to present as part of their full-blown opposition to Conway's original Rule 56 motion. Now Shareholders' motion has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for decision.

 At the outset it is important to recall the essential nature of a motion for summary judgment. It is intended to be fully dispositive of the merits of the case, in precisely the same way as a trial. Its procedure--if the movant is right in invoking it--differs from the evidentiary form of a trial only because the absence of any genuine issue of material fact (that is, the nonexistence of any dispute over a potentially outcome--determinative issue) obviates the need for testimony. *fn1"

 It follows that, just as is true of a defendant at trial, the defendant who opposes a plaintiff's summary judgment motion is at risk. If the evidence that the defendant tenders to the trial judge does not disclose a genuine issue of material fact, and if the plaintiff has the better of it on the law, the defendant will lose. That situation is precisely the obverse of the coin that was described by the Supreme Court in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986), where the plaintiff who responds to a defense motion for summary judgment does not disclose at least a genuine issue of material fact as to an essential element of plaintiff's cause of action:

 
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.

 And the parallel does not end there. Just as at trial a litigant exercises a full and free choice as to what evidence to put before the factfinder, so in response to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment the litigant exercises a full and free choice as to what evidence to put before the judge. No limitations except for the normal limits on evidence -- relevance, materiality and admissibility generally -- are placed on the litigants' choice of what to submit either at trial or on a summary judgment motion (in the latter case, either on the part of the motion's proponent or on the part of its opponent).

 Just so, no limitations or inhibitions were placed on the litigants here. Full discovery was obtained by each side. When Conway then moved for summary judgment, it filed the statement that is required by this District Court's General Rule ("GR") 12(m) to supplement the evidence that it offered in support of its motion. *fn2" In response Shareholders filed the required GR 12(n) statement together with their own evidence -- whatever they chose to put before this Court. *fn3" No objection was voiced by Shareholders to bar Conway's proffered evidence as failing to conform to Rule 56(e) in any respect (for example, by Shareholders moving to strike any affidavit or any portion of one) -- an opportunity that is just as available on summary judgment as at trial. *fn4"

 This Court was of course entitled to treat the litigants' presentations as constituting the full story, exactly as at a trial when both parties have rested and the proofs are closed and the case is submitted to the finder of fact (whether judge or jury) for decision. That is precisely the message that is taught in Celotex as to the risk run by the plaintiff who seeks to oppose summary judgment but whose submission fails to establish an essential ingredient of its cause of action. And the corresponding risk is necessarily run by the defendant whose submission fails to place in factual dispute an essential ingredient of plaintiff's cause of action on which the plaintiff has properly offered its proof.

 Shareholders are not of course the first litigants who, having lost in resisting a Rule 56 motion, come back to the court with a request to take a second look because some other newly-proffered evidence would create a factual issue where none had been shown previously. This Court dealt with a startlingly parallel motion in Keene Corp. v. International Fidelity Insurance Co., 561 F. Supp. 656 (N.D. Ill. 1982), where the defendant moved for reconsideration (exactly as Shareholders have here) on the ground that it had not given this Court the full story to refute the plaintiff's damages claim (again exactly like Shareholders' present contention here). This Court rejected defendant's motion ( id. at 665-66): *fn5"

 
Motions for reconsideration serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. See Evans, Inc. v. Tiffany & Co., 416 F. Supp. 224, 244 (N.D.Ill. 1976). Such motions cannot in any case be employed as a vehicle to introduce new evidence that could have been adduced during pendency of the summary judgment motion. See Walker v. Hoffman, 583 F.2d 1073, 1075 (9th Cir. 1978), quoting Donnelly v. Guion, 467 F.2d 290, 293 (2d Cir. 1972):
 
The non-movant has an affirmative duty to come forward to meet a properly supported motion for summary judgment:
 
A party opposing a motion for summary judgment simply cannot make a secret of his evidence until the trial, for in doing so he risks the possibility that there will be no trial. A summary judgment motion is intended to "smoke out" the facts so that the judge can decide if anything remains to be tried.

 On appeal our Court of Appeals not only affirmed this Court's decision but specifically approved and adopted the just-quoted portion of this Court's opinion (736 F.2d 388, 393 (7th Cir. 1984)). Since that time our Court of Appeals has itself, in Publishers Resource, Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publications, Inc., 762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985), quoted the language from this Court's Keene opinion rather than from its own affirmance of Keene (indeed the Court of Appeals did so with added emphasis on the entire sentence that barred the introduction of "new evidence that could have been adduced during pendency of the summary judgment motion"). *fn6" And since Publishers Resource our Court of Appeals has announced the identical principle on no fewer than four occasions: in FDIC v. Meyer, 781 F.2d 1260, 1268 (7th Cir. 1986) and Rothwell Cotton Co. v. Rosenthal & Co., 827 F.2d 246, 251-52 (7th Cir. 1987), two cases where the loser on the summary judgment motion has tried to upset that result on reconsideration based on facts that were not advanced in its initial presentation, *fn7" ...


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