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Carter v. Kent

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

February 23, 2018

DUANE CARTER, #200531, Plaintiff,
v.
J. KENT, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on a complaint filed by Duane Carter, a state inmate, on May 19, 2015.[1] In the instant civil action, Carter alleges that on May 10, 2013 the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to an eye injury he suffered when a chemical agent splashed in his face while working in the kitchen at Kilby Correctional Facility. Doc 1 at 2-3. Specifically, Carter complains that “the institutional kitchen does not have an eye-wash-station to allow inmates . . . to wash or flush out their eyes” and further alleges a “delay of (7) hours occurred” between the time of treatment by the institutional nurse and his referral to a free-world hospital “for medical diagnosis.” Doc. 1 at 3.[2] Carter names as defendant Janes Kent and Willie Sanford, who were the kitchen stewards at Kilby, and Corizon Healthcare, Inc., the contract medical care provider for the state prison system. Carter seeks monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1 at 4.

         The defendants filed special reports and relevant evidentiary materials in support of their reports, including affidavits and certified copies of Carter's medical records. In these filings, the defendants deny that they acted with deliberate indifference to the eye injury suffered by Carter. The defendants further assert that the claims presented in the complaint are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Docs. 19 at 5-6, 20 at 2 & 37 at 3.

         After receipt of the defendants' special reports, the court issued an order directing Carter to file a response to “the defendants' assertions that: (i) This case is due to be dismissed because it is barred by the applicable two-year period of limitations as the claims were not brought within two years from the time this cause of action accrued. . . .; and (ii) They did not act with deliberate indifference to his medical needs.” Doc. 40 at 1. The order advised Carter that his response to the defendants' reports should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioned that “unless within ten (10) days from the date of this order a party . . . presents sufficient legal cause why such action should not be undertaken . . . the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for the plaintiff filing a response] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special reports and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with the law.” Doc. 40 at 2-3. Carter filed an unsworn response to this order on December 14, 2015. Doc. 43.

         Pursuant to the directives of this order, the court deems it appropriate to treat the defendants' reports as a motion for summary judgment and concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants because Carter did not file this case within the two-year statute of limitations.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “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); 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.”). 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 [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that moving party has initial burden of showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial). 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 appropriate evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011) (holding that moving party discharges his burden by showing that the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving party's case or that the nonmoving party would be unable to prove his case at trial).

         The defendants have met their evidentiary burden. 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); Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (holding that, once a moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of material fact). This court will also consider “specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict in its favor such that summary judgment is not warranted. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007). “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). “[T]here must exist a conflict in substantial evidence to pose a jury question.” Hall v. Sunjoy Indus. Group, Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1301 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (citation omitted). “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253-54 (11th Cir. 2013) (same).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, the plaintiff's pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.

         The court has undertaken a thorough and exhaustive review of the evidence contained in the record. After this review, the court finds that Carter has failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude the entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Relevant Facts[3]

         On May 10, 2013, at approximately 9:45 a.m., a chemical liquid splashed into Carter's left eye during his shift in the kitchen at Kilby.[4] Doc. 1 at 3. Carter reported the accident to defendant Sanford, who immediately contacted the Kitchen Officer, Calvin Williams. Doc. 28-3 at 2. Officer Williams “had inmate Carter flush his eyes out with water [and] then escorted inmate Carter to the [health care unit] for medical attention, ...


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