Summary judgment is resorted to by parties that desire to expedite the resolution of disputes. Contractual disputes are no exception. Contractual disputes are ideally suited for summary judgment since the interpretation of contracts is a question of law for the court. When a written agreement is clear, unambiguous and complete, it will normally be enforced in accordance with its meaning. Nonetheless, in some circumstances, parol evidence could be admissible to aid the court in construing the contract. Difficulties could arise when the parties’ intent changes with time and when adjustments or substitutions must be made in performance. The lawyer that drafted the contract may or may not be able to testify.

Generally, summary judgment is appropriate for breach of contract cases if only the facts are disputed. Nonetheless, a motion for summary judgment is not appropriate for ambiguous case since the judge or jury will be required to determine intent.

A summary judgment is only applicable to contracts to certain extents

Fitness of Summary Judgment in Contract Disputes

Summary judgment is proper if the movant demonstrates that there exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To support an assertion that a fact cannot be or is genuinely dispute, the movant must do the following:

  1. cite to particular parts of material in the record

  2. show that the material cited do not establish the absence or presence of genuine dispute

  3. show that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact


The court ought to consider the terms of the contract before issuing a summary judgment

Moreover, when the court is considering a summary judgment in relation to breach of contract, the court need not consider only the cited materials but also other materials in the record. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must look at the record and any inferences to be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the non-movant.

Ambiguity as a Factor

The elements of a breach of contract claim include;

  1. The existence of an agreement.

  2. The performance of the contract by plaintiff.

  • Breach of the agreement by defendant.

  1. Damages

The initial question that the court asks when considering a breach of contact claim is whether the contract is unambiguous with respect to the question being disputed by the parties. A contract is considered ambiguous if it is capable of more than one meaning when viewed objectively by a reasonable man who has examined the context of the integrated agreement as a whole. Thus, the court ought to read the contract as a whole. Precisely, the disputed clauses must be construed in the context of the entire agreement. Ambiguity is assessed within the four corners of the document as opposed to considering external factors before the court renders a motion for summary judgment.

Ambiguous contracts do not merit a summary judgment

In instances where the contract is unambiguous, a court may not consider extrinsic evidence, including evidence of the parties’ post-contract conduct. However, where the language of the contract creates ambiguity, extrinsic evidence regarding the intent of the parties may be considered. Where extrinsic evidence exists, the meaning of the ambiguous contract is a question of fact for the person in pursuit of facts. In such instances, a motion for summary judgment is unnecessary unless the extrinsic evidence is one-sided to the extent that no reasonable person can decide contrariwise. Thus, once a court finds that the language of the contract is ambiguous, the court cannot resolve the said ambiguity. Resolution of any ambiguity is reserved for the fact-finder.


A motion for summary judgment can be resolved to in solving contractual disputes. Nonetheless, only to the extent that the terms of the agreement or contract in question are not ambiguous. Any ambiguous contract would call for the court further assessing the intent of the parties before grant of a motion for summary judgment to the movant.