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De Ahora-Blanco v. United States

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 5, 2013



MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

For the reasons that follow, defendant United States of America's motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. General Background

On April 26, 2011, plaintiff Serafin De Ahora-Blanco (hereinfater, "Ahora-Blanco"), a former inmate of the low security division of the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex (hereinafter "FCI Allenwood"), filed a complaint alleging that he was injured as the result of the negligence of employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (hereinfater, "BOP"). (ECF No. 1) (hereinafter, "Compl."). Specifically, Ahora-Blanco asserted in his complaint that, while he was using a weight machine in FCI Allenwood's gym on or about May 12, 2008, the machine "failed and collapsed on [him], fracturing his leg and causing other serious injuries." (Compl. ¶ 10-11). Ahora-Blanco pinned blame for the machine's collapse on the BOP's breach of its "duty to maintain the weight equipment in a reasonably safe condition for its intended use." (Id. ¶ 7).

Ahora-Blanco sought relief from defendant United States of America (hereinafter, the "United States") pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (hereinafter, the "FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b) & 2671-80, which, in relevant part, gives the district courts:

exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages... for... personal injury... caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.

28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1).

On March 29, 2012, the Honorable Yvette Kane, who was then presiding over this matter, denied the United States's "Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, " and granted Ahora-Blanco's motion for further discovery pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). (ECF No. 44). Judge Kane ordered discovery to be completed by October 10, 2012. (ECF No. 49). The discovery period having run, the United States again moved for summary judgment on December 21, 2012. (ECF No. 50).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" where it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury, " giving credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant and making all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor, "could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

For movants and nonmovants alike, the assertion "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must" be supported by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

Thus, where the moving party's motion is properly supported and his evidence, if not controverted, would entitle him to judgment as a matter of law, the nonmoving party, to avoid summary judgment in his opponent's favor, must answer by setting forth "genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250. In the face of the moving party's evidence, the nonmoving party's mere allegations, general denials or vague statements will not create a genuine factual dispute. See Bixler v. Cent. Pennsylvania Teamsters Health & Welfare Fund , 12 F.3d 1292, 1302 (3d Cir. 1993). Only citation to specific facts is sufficient. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250.

Where the nonmoving party has had adequate time for discovery and will bear the burden of proof at trial, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial, " and summary judgment ...

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