Often, summary judgment serves a broader purpose in the litigation than an end to it. As an example, here are two completely unrelated contexts, P2P file sharing and Georgia O’Keefe art works.
In the file sharing case, a smart defendant caught the record industry off guard by filing a motion for summary judgment after they filed one of their actions against suspected file sharers. According to the online article excellently describing what’s at stake at arstechnica.com (click here for story):
"Since the RIAA began filing lawsuits against suspected file sharers in 2003, not a single one has gone all the way to trial. In most cases, the defendants agree to write a four-figure check to the record labels to avoid a drawn-out court case. However, some of the accused are fighting back, and in some cases, it appears that the RIAA is dropping cases to avoid the possibility of losing."
The article goes on to explain how after the industry (RIAA) filed suit against the alleged file sharer, Paul Wilke, "Wilke's argument that the RIAA did not have enough evidence for its lawsuit to go forward and subsequent motion for summary judgment apparently caught Elektra by surprise." The article was able to confirm that the lawsuit brought by RIAA was dismissed, but unable to confirm if a settlement had been paid by either party, quoting the usual lawyerspeak which may lead one to suspect that funds (or at least free recordings?) possibly did indeed change hands.
In the Georgia O’Keefe case, Fisk University was sued when it attempted to sell off two of the artist’s works, which the artist’s estate and/or successor claimed the University was not allowed to do. Reacting to a denial of summary judgment, the University’s attorney, taking the "stiff upper lip" approach, told the Tennessean (click here for the full story):
"Summary judgment is a standard procedure that's almost always used in a lawsuit to expedite the process. Parties are always disappointed when their motion is denied, but most motions for summary judgment are not granted."
"We thought we had and continue to think we have good grounds for our position. You have to take a long-term view of litigation, and this motion in our view does not change anything with respect to the ultimate outcome and does not change the main arguments to be made at trial."
Considering the prize at stake (an eight figure amount in estimated proceeds from the sale which the University wants to use to build a sciences building), one would expect to press on with the trial.
The stiff upper lip approach is admirable, and keeping in mind that the author's beloved Crimson Tide ventures into Tennessean (Vols, that is) territory this weekend, will be something to keep in mind.