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Greenfield v. County of Lackawanna

July 27, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

Complaint Filed 02/02/2005


I. Background

This counseled civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed on February 2, 2005, on behalf of Randy Greenfield, an inmate formerly confined at the Lackawanna County Prison, Scranton, Pennsylvania.*fn1 The named defendants are Lackawanna County and Lackawanna County Prison.

In his complaint, Greenfield claims that defendants violated his Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they failed to protect him from an assault by another prisoner and then failed to provide adequate medical treatment. (Doc. No. 1, complaint). Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 8). The motion is fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. In his brief in opposition, plaintiff surrenders his claim for inadequate medical care. (See Doc. No. 17, p. 5). Thus, the only issue for summary judgment is defendants' alleged failure to protect plaintiff from assault by another inmate, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.*fn2 For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the court to render summary judgment " . . . forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

A disputed fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her pleadings. When the party seeking summary judgment satisfies its burden under Rule 56(c) of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party is required by Rule 56(e) to go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of production to the nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears the burden of proving at trial, for "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. See Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. Statement of Facts

From the pleadings, declarations and exhibits submitted therewith, the following facts can be ascertained as undisputed.

On March 23, 2004, inmate, Kenneth Michaels was committed to the custody of the Lackawanna County Prison. (Doc. No. 19, pp. 17 & 18, Recommitment). He was imprisoned on charges of simple assault, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another, retail theft, possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest and driving under the influence with a suspended license. Id.

By Order dated June 28, 2004, plaintiff was committed to the custody of the Lackawanna County Prison as a parole violator. (Doc. No. 10, Ex. A-5, Order). Plaintiff and inmate Michaels were both housed on DC cell block. (Doc. No. 10, Ex. D. Deposition of Randy Greenfield at p. 11).

On August 10, 2004, plaintiff and another inmate were working out on DC Block. Id. at p. 14. Inmate Michaels asked plaintiff for a match. Id. at p. 16. Plaintiff told Michaels that he would get one for him when he was done working out. Id. Michaels then proceeded to go into plaintiff's cell and "ripping apart [plaintiff's] whole bed and basically just rummaging through all of [plaintiff's] stuff, to get a match stick." Id. Plaintiff told him to "stop going through [his] stuff" and that he would get the match for him. Id. Michaels then told plaintiff that if he didn't like it, he could "go down to his cell to fight him." Id. at p. 17. Plaintiff "told him no." Id. Plaintiff then went "back to [his] corner" to make his bed "when [Michaels] came from behind and started hitting [him]" and "before [he] knew it [he] was on the ground spun around" and ...

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