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Flournoy v. Harris

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 2, 2015

DONNELL FLOURNOY, Plaintiff,
v.
IRVIN HARRIS, Defendant.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

In this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 action, Plaintiff Donnell Flournoy ("Plaintiff"), a former[1] state inmate, challenges the constitutionality of actions taken against him during his incarceration at the Kilby Correctional Facility ("Kilby") in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. The only remaining defendant is Irvin Harris ("Defendant"), and Plaintiff complains that on March 19, 2012, Defendant subjected Plaintiff to excessive force, in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment.[2] Plaintiff seeks damages and demands a jury trial.

In accordance with the orders of the court, Defendant filed a special report and supporting evidentiary material in response to the allegations contained in the complaint. Doc. Nos. 10, 15. The court then informed Plaintiff that Defendant's special report, may, at any time, be treated as a motion for summary judgment, and the court explained to Plaintiff the proper manner in which to respond to a motion for summary judgment. Doc. No. 16. Plaintiff filed a response to the special report filed by Defendant. Doc. Nos. 20, 20-1. Pursuant to the aforementioned order, the court deems it appropriate to treat Defendant's reports as a motion for summary judgment. Thus, this case is now pending on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of this motion, the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof and the Plaintiff's response, the court concludes that the Defendant's motion for summary judgment is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT 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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 omitted); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 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.").[3] 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 322-24.

Defendant has met his 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 the 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 Defendant's properly supported motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff is required to produce "sufficient [favorable] evidence" which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims. 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 249-50. "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, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). 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) (per curiam) (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 "produced nothing, beyond his own conclusory allegations" challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) ("[M]ere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose a motion for summary judgment...."). 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. Sw. Forest Indus., 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 Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 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. Sec'y of the Dep't of Children and Family Servs., 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 323-24 (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 Assocs., Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (To establish a genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence such that a 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, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of material so as to preclude summary judgment on his claims against Defendant Harris. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

II. SUMMARY OF MATERIAL FACTS

The court views the following facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party. Plaintiff states that he was assigned to G Dorm, and a day earlier, on March 17, 2012, Defendant threatened Plaintiff and said he would return the next day to carry out his threat to "do something bad to the Plaintiff." Pl's Aff., Doc. No. 20-1, at 1. Plaintiff states he requested to be placed in a safekeeping cell for his protection from Defendant and in fear for his life. Id. Plaintiff avers that on March 18, 2012, he gathered his things and was moving to the safekeeping cell, when Defendant intentionally slammed a steel door against Plaintiff's head, arm, and shoulder, causing Plaintiff permanent injuries and damages. Id. at 2.

Plaintiff was taken to see a nurse, who prepared a body chart. Doc. No. 15-3, at 4. According to the body chart, Plaintiff told the nurse, "I ran into the door." The nurse observed that Plaintiff complained of "right shoulder pain, unable to raise right arm. able to move fingers." Id. She assessed him with "pain R/T injury." Id. She planned for an x-ray in the morning and instructed Plaintiff to submit for sick call the following morning. Id. On March 28, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a medical grievance that the nurse did not write down the correct report because it purportedly referred to a fight. Doc. No. ...


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