Probability, Confidence, and Matsushita: The Misunderstood Summary Judgment Revolution
73 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2013 Last revised: 7 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 29, 2013
This article offers a reinterpretation of the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corporation. Although the Matsushita decision is often credited for ushering in a new era of summary judgment by shifting power from the jury to trial court judges, this conclusion is based on an erroneous understanding of the case. In reality, Matsushita is a narrow decision that does not alter the relationship between judge and jury. Appreciating the true import of Matsushita is possible only by delineating between the concepts of probability and confidence. The Supreme Court’s decision in Matsushita is usually understood as having been decided according to a probability analysis, but the best interpretation of the case is that it was decided pursuant to a confidence analysis. Recognizing the true basis of the Matsushita decision dispels the popular belief that Matsushita requires an aggressive use of summary judgment by trial judges. In addition, properly understanding Matsushita is the key to comprehending the pleading requirement of “plausibility,” introduced by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly.
Keywords: Matsushita, summary judgment, probability, confidence, Twombly, Kodak, Monsanto, Meier, Celotex, Anderson, Liberty Lobby, Seventh Amendment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation