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Gause v. Diguglielmo

January 15, 2009

MARIO GAUSE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID DIGUGLIELMO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendants, David Diguglielmo, Dennis Cotton, Jeraldine Marable, Jack Kline, Vivian Jarvis, Joan Neri, George Hiltner, Scott Pasquale, and C.A. Judge (hereinafter "Commonwealth Defendants") and Defendants, Richard Stefanic, Richard Kosieroski, Frank Masino, John Zaro, and Caleb Nwosu (hereinafter "Medical Defendants") filed motions for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b) (doc. nos. 31 and 30). For the reasons that follow both motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Mario Gause initiated this lawsuit, claiming violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which occurred while he was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford ("Graterford"). Plaintiff alleges that he fell on a broken crate cover while working in the kitchen of Graterford on March 29, 2006, and as a result, he suffered injuries.

After the fall, Plaintiff was sent to an outside medical facility. He was discharged and returned to Graterford, where he was placed on overnight observation in the infirmary, and then released to the regular housing unit. Plaintiff allegedly requested infirmary housing but was denied. He claims that his medication was delayed. Further, he claims that despite being told by medical staff to "not stand too long," he was ordered by kitchen staff to stand while working.

After deposing Plaintiff and reviewing Plaintiff's medical records, the Commonwealth Defendants and Medical Defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment (doc. nos. 31 and 30). Commonwealth Defendants argue: (1) Commonwealth Defendants' conduct in response to Plaintiff's injury does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation; and (2) Commonwealth Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from the suit. Medical Defendants argue: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies against Defendant Doctors Masino, Stefanic, Zaro, Nwuso, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); and (2) Medical Defendants' conduct in response to Plaintiff's injury does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motions collectively, reiterating the arguments in his complaint, and then filed a supplemental response, again reiterating the underlying arguments of his claim. (Doc. nos. 34 and 35).

II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if its existence or non-existence would affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" when there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party regarding the existence of that fact. Id. at 248-49. "In considering the evidence, the court should draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." El v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

"Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party has thus discharged its burden, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must--by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56]--set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Commonwealth Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment Commonwealth

Defendants assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity, shielding them from trial for Plaintiff's § 1983 action. Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for an individual whose constitutional or federal rights are violated by those acting under color of state law.*fn2 See Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002) (recognizing that Section 1983 provides a remedy for violations of individual rights "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States). When an officer's conduct gives rise to a Section 1983 claim, the privilege of qualified immunity, if appropriate, can serve as a "shield from suit." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991).

"Qualified immunity is 'an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation.'" Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). Pursuant to Saucier, qualified immunity claims are evaluated under a two-part test. Walter v. Pike County, 544 F.3d 182, 191 (3d Cir. 2008). First, the court must determine whether the "conduct alleged by the plaintiff violated a clearly established principle of constitutional or statutory law." Id. (citing Showers v. Sprangler, 182 F.3d 165, 171-172 (3d Cir. 1999)). If no constitutional violation occurred, the inquiry ends here and qualified immunity is appropriate. Id. However, if there is a constitutional violation, the court proceeds to the second step and ...


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