How Data Reveals Key Answers for Dispositive Motions

Dispositive motions win (and lose) cases. Whether seeking summary judgment, dismissal, or judgment on the pleadings, these high-stakes motions can (quite literally) make or break a case. 

Given their importance, these motions provide fertile ground for data-driven lawyers to use analytics to answer key questions. But can data reveal any factors that correlate with dispositive motions being denied or granted?

Case types are a great place to start. The case types that see summary judgment motions being granted most frequently are prisoner-related cases, followed by employment-related civil-rights cases and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. 

On the dismissal side, prisoner’s rights, employment, and ADA cases remain frequent, but contract and product liability cases are also frequently dismissed.

Data cal also help practitioners control for regional differences, and understand if their cases may fare better if brought in certain places. For example, in employment-related civil rights cases in the Eastern District of Michigan, summary judgment is outright rejected 18% of the time, virtually identical to the 17% denial rate in the District of Columbia District Court. However, federal court in the nation’s capital opts for partial grant more frequently than in the Eastern District of Michigan, according to available data. This could be driven by a number of factors – as the seat of the federal government, D.C.’s cases could be of a different nature than ones filed in Detroit. 

Beyond winning or losing cases, another factor lawyers and their clients need to know is timing. How long will it take for the judge to reach a decision? 

Data can also provide insights into how long their case might take to resolve. In litigation, time is money. So the longer the court takes to decide a case, the higher the stakes. 

Lawyers can use timing data alongside their own billing data to estimate client spend. For example, judges in the Southern District of New York ruling on a motion for summary judgment take an average of 231 days, but the median 50% of these decisions take between 154 and 296 days. So when a client asks “how long will it take to decide the case,” it’s no longer sufficient to say “Hard to say.” With data analytics, one can give a statistical range that can help clients and their lawyers drive strategy.