IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
September 26, 2011
JASON TATE, PLAINTIFF,
C.O. KUBANEY, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter
On Plaintiff's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment Against Defendant Kubaney
Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter*fn1
A.Relevant Procedural History
Plaintiff Jason Tate, acting pro se, initiated this civil rights action on July 24, 2009. Plaintiff alleges that during a period of incarceration at SCI-Albion, Defendants violated his constitutional rights in various ways. Plaintiff originally named Correctional Officer Sgt. Kubaney, Correctional Officer Boyd, Superintendent Brooks, and the "Department of Corrections Albion" as Defendants to this action.
Later, Plaintiff retained counsel, who filed an Amended Complaint on
Plaintiff‟s behalf on October 25, 2010, clarifying his claims for
relief and eliminating the Department of Corrections as a defendant.
Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by Defendant Kubaney and
that the other Commonwealth Defendants bear some responsibility for
that assault and the subsequent retaliation he suffered.*fn2
Plaintiff advances three claims under § 1983: an excessive
force claim under the Eighth Amendment against Kubaney, Brooks, and
Boyd; a violation of liberty interest in personal security under the
Fourteenth Amendment against Kubaney and Brooks and Boyd; and an
unlawful retaliation against Brooks. Further, Plaintiff advances a
claim of assault, battery, and willful misconduct sounding in state
tort law against Defendant Kubaney.
Defendant Kubaney is represented by private counsel, while the remaining Defendants are represented by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth.
Presently pending before this Court is Defendant Brooks‟ motion to dismiss [ECF No. 36] and Plaintiff‟s motion for partial summary judgment against Defendant Kubaney [ECF No. 44]. This Memorandum Opinion limits itself to Plaintiff‟s partial motion for summary judgment against Defendant Kubaney. Defendant Kubaney has failed to file a brief in opposition to the pending motion for summary judgment against him, despite being notified of the opportunity to do so. ECF No. 48. Additionally, Kubaney has failed to file an Answer to the Amended Complaint, but Plaintiff has not moved for the entry of default.
B.Standard of Review on Motion for Summary Judgment
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted 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." When applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party‟s claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to the non-movant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-461 (3d Cir. 1989)(the non-movant must present affirmative evidence - more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance - which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue." Garcia v. Kimmell, 381 Fed.Appx 211, 213 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005).
Further, under the Local Rules of this Court, within 30 days of the filing of a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must file: 1) a Responsive Concise Statement; 2) a Memorandum in Opposition; and 3) an Appendix. W.D. Pa.L.R. 56. A litigant‟s failure to file the required opposition and responsive concise statement works to his detriment. "[A]lleged material facts set forth in the moving party‟s Concise Statement of Material Facts [.] which are claimed to be undisputed, will for the purpose of deciding the motion for summary judgment be deemed admitted unless specifically denied ." Id. at (e). See also Carnegie Mellon University v. Marvell Technology Group, Ltd., 2011 WL 1044652, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar.18, 2011); 84 Lumber Co., L.P. v. Bryan Const.Co., 2011 WL 666209, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 14, 2011). Because Defendant Kubaney has failed to file an opposition brief or a responsive concise statement, the material facts set forth in Plaintiff‟s statement are deemed admitted.
C.Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment against Defendant Kubaney
Plaintiff seeks summary judgment in his favor through the use of offensive collateral estoppel*fn3 . Plaintiff argues that because Defendant Kubaney has been convicted of criminal assault for the incident in question, this Court need not engage in further analysis as to the constitutional claims here. In other words, Plaintiff argues, that because a jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Kubaney (either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly) subjected Plaintiff to bodily injury without justification, Plaintiff has demonstrated that Kubaney violated Plaintiff‟s Eighth Amendment rights.*fn4
The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison staff from unnecessarily and
wantonly inflicting pain in a manner that offends contemporary
standards of decency. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992).
In making this determination, the central question is "whether force
was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline,
or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Id. at 7; see also
Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 649 (3d Cir. 2002) (referring to
this "central question" as the "pivotal inquiry.").*fn5
Summary judgment in favor of a defendant will not be
appropriate if "it appears that the evidence [.] will support a
reliable inference of wantonness in the infliction of pain." Brooks v.
Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 106 (3d Cir. 2000).
In his Concise Statement of Material Facts (which is deemed admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56), Plaintiff states:
- On June 12, 2008, Defendant Kubaney was convicted for the simple assault of Plaintiff Jason Tate.
- The assault consisted of a punch to Mr. Tate‟s left eye, as well as having his head slammed against a wall.
- The elements of the conviction required a finding that Defendant Kubaney subjected Mr. Tate to bodily injury in an intentional, knowing, or reckless manner.
- At a minimum, the jury was required to find that Defendant Kubaney acted with conscious disregard to an unjustifiable risk of bodily harm to Mr. Tate.
- The jury was required to find, beyond reasonable doubt, that Defendant Kubaney‟s actions were not justified by self-defense.
ECF No. 46. As explained previously, these facts are deemed admitted. As such, Plaintiff has established that the force used against Plaintiff was not applied in "a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." See Brooks, 204 F.2d at 106. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment will be granted as to the Eighth Amendment claim.
Next, Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on his state law tort claims of battery and willful misconduct. A battery occurs when a person acts intentionally and cause a harmful contact with another person, and willful misconduct occurs when a person acts with reckless disregard for the safety of another. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 13, § 500. Again, because of the facts deemed admitted here, summary judgment will be granted in favor of Plaintiff.
An appropriate Order follows.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JASON TATE, Plaintiff, v. C.O. KUBANEY, et al, Defendants.
Civil Action No. 09-183 Erie
Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter
AND NOW, this 26th day of September, 2011; IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion for partial summary judgment filed by Plaintiff [ECF No. 44] is GRANTED. The Clerk of Courts is directed to enter judgment against Defendant Kubaney as to the Eighth Amendment claim, as well as the battery and willful misconduct tort claims.
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge