Friday, January 30, 2015

Summary judgment affirmed after plaintiff's affidavit is stricken

In Kutz v. Deere & Co., 2015 OK CIV APP 6, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed a summary judgment in favor of a defendant after the court struck the plaintiff's self-serving affidavit.

The Deere & Co. court held:

¶9 "When determining whether an affidavit may be disregarded because it attempts to create a sham issue of fact, the Court may consider whether the party was cross-examined during earlier testimony, whether the party had access to the evidence at the time of earlier testimony or whether the affidavit was based on newly discovered evidence, and whether the earlier testimony reflects confusion which the affidavit attempts to explain." Tortorelli v. Mercy Health Center, Inc., 2010 OK CIV APP 105, ¶ 30, 242 P.3d 549, 561 (citing Ishmael v. Andrew2006 OK CIV APP 82, ¶16, 137 P.3d 1271, 1276). "A trial court may disregard an affidavit purporting to create an issue of fact by directly contradicting prior deposition testimony during which the deponent was both cross-examined and had access to the information forming the basis for the affidavit at the time of the deposition." Tortorelliid., (citing Savage v. Burton2005 OK CIV APP 106125 P.3d 1249).

¶10 In this case, Kutz was deposed at great length in July 2012 with his attorney present about evidence to which he clearly had prior access, including his letter to Deere proposing a settlement of their dispute. At the deposition, Kutz admitted not being forced to write his proposal letter, he understood "reaching a settlement" meant the parties would compromise and end their dispute, and that he knew he was releasing his personal claims for money arising from the fire and the equipment. He also admitted he was neither told nor threatened that if he did not settle and/or release his claims with Deere that it would not let him rent the haying equipment from Grissoms.