Legal Writing in Plain English (2nd edn, 2013). po. 214 Bottom - 215 Top. Link to old edition.

If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently probative, summary judgment is proper.29 As the Supreme Court has made clear, a nonmovant cannot

raise a genuine fact issue merely by showing "some metaphysical doubt" about the facts.30 If the record as a whole could not lead a rational fact-finder to decide for the nonmovant, then no genuine fact issue remains for trial.31 As this Court has observed, summary judgment "affords a merciful end to litigation that would otherwise be lengthy and expensive."32

30 Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Little v. Liquid Air Carp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).

The relevant para. beneath from Matsushita, doesn't explain this term though, which (I divine) signifies something else than the signification in philosophy?

Second, the issue of fact must be "genuine." Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. 56(c), (e). When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), [Footnote 12] its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. See DeLuca v. Atlantic Refining Co., 176 F.2d 421, 423 (CA2 1949) (L. Hand, J.), cert. denied, 338 U.S. 943 (1950); 10A C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2727 (1983); Clark, Special Problems

2 Answers 2


Basically, the idea of incontrovertable evidence is that the evidence points to one and only one truth, and the fact-finder need not doubt it (metaphysical doubt) unless opposition provides material fact that refutes the claim.

That is, the defendant may be innocent until proven guilty, but evidence that shows guilt exists on the defendant's part is not false just because it demonstrates this. Thus, if the person making the claim meets the burden of proof, the person in the defense must refute with new evidence that raises doubt about the new fact. One should not assume it is not factual just because it aids in the claim against a defendant. You cannot doubt the evidence just because you doubt it; there must be a reason.

  • 2
    Guilt and innocence are terms reserved for criminal proceedings. This case refers to a civil lawsuit.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 21, 2018 at 13:53

In this situation, "metaphysical doubt" means a hypothetical and implausible possibility that a fact is not established. Basically, this means that an assertion supported by a sworn affidavit that a fact is true must be overcome by a counter-affidavit disagreeing that the fact is true.

The close cases would involve a sworn statement about a fact that would be strongly consistent with a ruling in favor of the moving party, but doesn't strictly speaking rule out a scenario in which the moving party does not win, that is not opposed by an affidavit.

For example, the moving party's affidavit in a civil trespassing case seeking money damages for unauthorized use of real property might say: "I swear that on Tuesday, I saw the defendant open the door and walk into the building and stay there for twenty-four hours."

This would establish a critical element of trespassing, but wouldn't completely rule out the possibility that someone with the authority to do so had given the defendant permission to enter the building.

The better course of action, to avoid a "metaphysical doubt" issue, would be for the defendant to execute a counter-affidavit stating: "I swear that I had permission to enter the building." But, his attorney could argue that the moving party's affidavit was insufficient to prove liability in the first place because it didn't establish that the defendant entered without permission.

The defendant might do that because he couldn't truthfully swear that he was given permission, but wasn't asked that question in his deposition and the building manager, who is the only other person who could establish that the defendant was not given permission was unavailable (perhaps he died of old age a few days after the alleged trespassing incident). Preventing a summary judgment from entering might make it possible to reach a favorable settlement of the case rather than ultimately going to trial, where the defendant would have to testify truthfully under oath that he didn't have permission.

In that situation, the court would have to decide if the hypothetical possibility that the defendant had permission was an essential element of the moving party's prima facie case that had to be established by a sworn statement, or if it was a mere metaphysical doubt.

You must log in to answer this question.