The Supreme Court explained in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), that a party can obtain for summary judgment when its opponent has no evidence to support an element of the opponent’s case. Justice Brennan’s dissent warned then that the opinion would “create confusion” among district courts. Fast forward nearly thirty years, and that “confusion” appears to be playing out. The Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Spierer v. Rossman, No. 14-3171 (7th Cir. Aug. 14, 2015), written by Judge Manion, is the latest example.
The tragic events underlying the case began four years ago when, after a night of partying at Indiana University, Lauren Spierer went missing without a trace. Years later, Lauren’s fate and whereabouts still unknown, her parents sued the three classmates who were with her on the night of her disappearance. Lauren’s parents alleged that the classmates were negligent in supplying her with alcohol when she was already intoxicated and that their conduct violated Indiana’s Dram Shop Act.