United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY, Magistrate Judge.
This case is before the court on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint filed by Deena Enfinger. Enfinger alleges that her constitutional rights were violated while she was in custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections ("ALDOC") and housed at ALDOC's Montgomery Women's Facility in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. (Doc. 24). Enfinger alleges that her constitutional rights were violated when she was denied the use of an inhaler for her asthma, when she was charged three dollars per sick call, and when a mental health nurse spoke with the warden about the advisability of a transfer to another facility. (Doc. 24). Enfinger also alleges that overcrowding at the Montgomery Womens' facility creates unconstitutionally unsafe and unsanitary conditions. (Doc. 24). Enfinger names as Defendants Warden Edward Ellington, Nurse Rita Bryant-Smith, LPN (designated in the complaint as "Nurse Smith"), and Beth Whatley, MS, MHP (designated in the complaint as "Mrs. Whatley"). Enfinger seeks a injunctive relief and monetary damages for the alleged violations of her constitutional rights.
The Defendants have filed answers, reports, and relevant supporting evidentiary materials, including affidavits, addressing Enfinger's claims for relief. (Docs. 22, 23, 25, 35, 37, 38, 45). The court informed Enfinger that the Defendants' special reports may, at a future time, be treated as a motion for summary judgment and explained to Enfinger the proper manner in which to respond to a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 46). Enfinger has responded to the reports and to the supplemental reports. Pursuant its June 12, 2012 order (Doc. 46), the court deems it appropriate to treat the Defendants' reports as motions for summary judgment. Thus, this case is now pending on the Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motions and the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, the court concludes that the Defendants' motion for summary judgment are due to be granted.
II. Standard of Review
"Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation to former rule omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 56(a) ("The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."). The party moving for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue [- now dispute -] of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.
The Defendants have met their evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Thus, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3) ("If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact by [citing to materials in the record including affidavits, relevant documents or other materials] the court may... grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it.") A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263.
In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts
must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.
Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation omitted). Consequently, to survive the Defendants' properly supported motion for summary judgment, Enfinger is required to produce "sufficient [favorable] evidence" which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims of constitutional violations. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e). "If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable... or is not significantly probative... summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250. "A mere scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for that party." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. 242). Conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (plaintiff's "conclusory assertions..., in the absence of [admissible] supporting evidence, are insufficient to withstand summary judgment."); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995) (grant of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond "his own conclusory allegations" challenging actions of the Defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) ("mere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose summary judgment...."); Evers v. General Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) ("[C]onclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value."). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth specific facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 ("[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial."); Barnes v. Southwest Forest Industries, Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of summary judgment is appropriate).
For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant. United States v. One Piece of Real Property Located at 5800 SW 74th Avenue, Miami, Florida, 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Lofton v. Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004) ("Only factual disputes that are material under the substantive law governing the case will preclude entry of summary judgment."). "The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case." McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine [dispute] for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In cases where the evidence before the court which is admissible on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form indicates there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to it as a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-324 (summary judgment appropriate where pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before the court show no genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact); Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Associates, Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (to establish a genuine dispute of material fact, nonmoving party must produce evidence such that reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in his favor).
Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. Beard, 548 U.S. at 525; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, the plaintiff's pro se status alone does not mandate this court's disregard of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case. In this case, Enfinger fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude summary judgment. Matsushita, supra .
In her second amended complaint, Enfinger brings three separate claims. First, she alleges that, while incarcerated at the Montgomery Womens' Center, Nurse Rita Bryant-Smith refused to allow her access to a prescribed medication, and that the Montgomery Womens' Center charged her for medical treatment for chronic conditions. (Doc. 24 pp. 4-5). With respect to this claim, Enfinger seeks reimbursement, compensation for pain and suffering, and injunctive relief.
Second, Enfinger alleges that the Montgomery Womens' Center was so dirty, inadequate, disrepaired, and overcrowded as to amount to a constitutional violation. (Doc. 24 pp. 6-7). With respect to this claim, she seeks only injunctive relief. (Doc. 24 p. 7).
Third, Enfinger alleges that mental health technician Beth Whatley violated her right to confidentiality in her mental health records by discussing her mental health with Warden Ellington in a conversation regarding her readiness for a transfer to another facility. (Doc. 24 p. 8). With respect to this claim, Enfinger seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 24 p. 8).
A. Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
Unlike claims for monetary relief, claims for injunctive and declaratory relief are prospective in nature, and are intended to prevent future injuries. Smith v. Allen, 502 F.3d 1255, 1267 (11th Cir. 2007), abrogated on other grounds by Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S.Ct. 1651 (2011); Adler v. Duval County Sch. Bd., 112 F.3d 1475, 1477 (11th Cir. 1997). "When the threat of future harm dissipates, the plaintiff's claims for equitable relief become moot because the plaintiff no longer needs protection from future injury." Adler, 112 F.3d at 1477. Accordingly, absent class certification, the general rule in this circuit is that release of a prisoner will moot that prisoner's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief ...