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The Business Records Exception and the Almighty Summary Judgment

For many types of commercial collection cases, the claims litigated relate to failure to pay on an instrument, i.e., a promissory note, a line of credit, a personal guaranty, or breach of a contract to pay certain amounts. It follows that the goal of litigation is to conduct a minimal amount of written discovery (typically requests for admission being the most important discovery tool) and then move for summary judgment or partial adjudication of the issues.

Summary judgment, while a labor-intensive motion, is generally more cost effective than a trial. Summary judgment is a judgment entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, i.e., without a full trial. Such a judgment may be issued on the merits of an entire case, or on a particular issue in the case, only if the court finds that there is no material factual dispute and that the matter can be 1443660093_document-dollar.pngdecided as a matter of law.

To prevail on this motion, a plaintiff must prove each element of its cause of action by admissible evidence entitling the plaintiff to judgment on the cause of action. Montrose Chemical Corp. of California v. Superior Court (1993) 6 Cal.4th 287, 301, note 4. A breach of contract cause of action (on a loan or note) consists of the following elements: (1) the existence of a (usually written) contract; (2) plaintiff's performance or excuse for nonperformance; (3) defendant's breach; and (4) damages to plaintiff therefrom. Regan Roofing Co. Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego County (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 425, 435.

The party moving for summary judgment must present declarations under penalty of perjury which: (1) show the declarant's personal knowledge (part of the ncessary foundation) and competency to testify; (2) state admissible evidentiary facts; and (3) do not contain inadmissible hearsay or opinions. Hayman v. Block (1986) 176 Cal.App.3d 629, 638-639. Because much of the proof needed in these types of business cases are business records, it is important to understand what is and isn't hearsay (an out of court statement submitted to prove the truth of the matter in question).

The centerpiece of any summary judgment motion is the client's declaration that lays the foundation and authenticates the evidence relied upon to prevail. An experienced commercial collections attorney will work with you to establish a solid foundation that clearly presents your (undisputed) case and allows for you to obtain a judgment needed to collect what is owed to you.

To discuss your commercial collections issues, contact Los Angeles collections attorney Ronald P. Slates today.

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