Ultimate Facts, Material Facts, Evidentiary Facts

Depending on the context — eg, pleadings, summary judgment, motions to dismiss, jury instructions — cases use the phrases “ultimate fact,” “material fact,” and “evidentiary fact.” The distinctions are subtle but legally important.

A “material fact” and an “ultimate fact” generally mean the same thing. “Ultimate facts are those the jury must find to return a verdict for the plaintiff.” R.M.A. by Appleberry v. Blue Springs R-IV Sch. Dist., 568 S.W.3d 420, 425 (Mo. 2019). “A material fact in the context of summary judgment is one from which the right to judgment flows.” Goerlitz v. City of Maryville, 333 S.W.3d 450, 453 (Mo. 2011). Evidentiary facts, on the other hand, play a more subordinate role. They secondarily tend to support an ultimate or material fact. “A proper verdict-directing instruction submits only the ultimate facts, not evidentiary details.” Blanks v. Fluor Corp., 450 S.W.3d 308, 395 (Mo. Ct. App. 2014).

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