Serve yourself

Nigro v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 12-57262 (9th Cir. Feb. 25, 2015).

This case stands for the proposition—ignored so puzzlingly often—that you cannot obtain summary judgment just by calling the other party’s evidence “self-serving.” 

Sears fired Anthony Nigro, who then sued Sears for disability discrimination under California law. To survive Sears’s motion for summary judgment, Nigro filed a declaration saying that his manager told him that if he was “going to stick with being sick,” he wouldn’t get paid.

The district court awarded summary judgment to Sears, saying that Nigro hadn’t proved causation—i.e., that he was fired because of his disability. When Nigro understandably pointed to his manager’s statement as evidence of causation, the district court disregarded it because “the source of this evidence is Nigro’s own self-serving testimony.” 

The Ninth Circuit reverses, pointing out that a district court can’t disregard a party’s declaration just because it’s “self-serving.” Whom else is it supposed to serve? Anyway, it’s the jury who decides whether a party’s testimony is credible, not the judge. (The manager’s statement isn’t hearsay, by the way, because it was made by Sears’s agent and is offered against Sears.)