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Zerbe v. Karnes

January 25, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones



Pending before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment, filed by Defendants Robert J. Karnes and Jackie Matias (collectively, "Defendants") on May 25, 2007. (Rec. Doc. 12). For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment shall be granted.


On March 5, 2007, Plaintiff Shaun Zerbe ("Plaintiff" or "Zerbe") filed a Complaint in the above-captioned action. (See Rec. Doc. 1).

On May 25, 2007, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment ("the Motion"), as well as a supporting brief and other supporting materials. (See Rec. Docs. 12-14). As the Motion and supporting submissions were originally mailed to a previous address for Plaintiff, the briefing on this Motion was somewhat delayed. Notably, in our Orders addressing that issue, Plaintiff was also explicitly advised that we would treat at least a portion of the Motion as one seeking summary judgment, and that, accordingly, he should submit any materials he wished in opposition thereto. (See Rec. Docs. 15, 18). Plaintiff then timely submitted his materials opposing the Motion (see docs. 19-21), and Defendants timely filed their reply brief (doc. 22). Thus, the Motion is now ripe for our disposition.



In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion should be granted "if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved . . . [b]ut a court need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse, 132 F.3d at 906.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a fact finder could draw from them. See Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982).

Initially, the moving party has a burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This may be met by the moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 325.

Rule 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must then show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential elements of their case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23 (1986).

It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

Still, "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). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material." Id. at 248. A dispute is considered to be genuine only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.


In light of the nature of the pending Motion and the circumstances surrounding the briefing thereon, our recitation of the facts underlying this action is based upon our thorough review of the contents of each of the following: Plaintiff's Complaint (doc. 1), the parties' Statements of Material Facts (docs. 13, 21), Plaintiff's Response (doc. 19) to the pending Motion, and the record submitted by Defendants (see doc. 12). As required by the applicable standards of review, we have viewed all facts and inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Additionally, pursuant to Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), we have also liberally construed this pro se Plaintiff's allegations.

The facts underlying this action relate to two incidents in which Plaintiff, then an inmate at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility ("LCCF"), was allegedly assaulted and then denied appropriate medical treatment. By way of background, ...

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