By Evelyn Norton

Did the District Court Err in Granting Summary Judgment in Defendants’ Favor?

Today, in Rogers v. Deane, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granting summary judgment in the Defendant’s favor.  Plaintiff-Appellant Edwina Rogers argued that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendants Jon Deane and Gaffey Deane Talley, PLLC on Rogers’ claims for breach of contract and statutory business conspiracy.  Further, Rogers’ alleged that the district court should have granted her request for the opportunity to conduct discovery before granting summary judgment to Defendants.

  1. The District Court Did Not Err in Granting Summary Judgment to Defendants on Rogers’ Claim for Breach of Contract.

In reviewing the evidence in the record, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Defendants on the claim for breach of contract.  The evidence clearly showed Rogers’ alleged damages were not caused by Defendant’s breach of contract.

  1. The District Court Did Not Err in Granting Summary Judgment to Defendants on Rogers’ Claim for Statutory Business Conspiracy.

The Fourth Circuit also concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on the statutory business conspiracy claim.  To prevail on a business conspiracy claim under Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500, a plaintiff must establish by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant acted with legal malice.  However, the Fourth Circuit found no evidence in the record that Defendants acted with legal malice toward Rogers’ business.  Thus, summary judgment in Defendants’ favor was proper.

  1. The District Court Did Not Err in Granting Summary Judgment to Defendants Without Granting Rogers’ Request for Discovery.

Finally, the Fourth Circuit concluded that granting summary judgment without allowing discovery was proper.  Under Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be refused if the nonmovant has not had the opportunity to discover information essential to the nonmovant’s opposition.  However, the request should be denied if if the additional evidence to be obtained through discovery would not create a genuine dispute of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.  In this case, the Fourth Circuit found no basis in the record for concluding that discovery would produce evidence creating a genuine dispute of material fact.  Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in Defendant’s favor without first granting Rogers’ request to conduct discovery.

Decision Affirmed

The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Defendants on both the breach of contract and statutory business conspiracy claims.

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