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Kietz v. Washington County

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

February 19, 2014

CHARLES L. KIETZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA; WASHINGTON COUNTY PRISON BOARD; CHERYL MCGAVITT; JANE DOE #1; JANE DOE #2; JANE DOE #3; JANE DOE #4; JANE DOE #5; MATTHEW EISLEY, M.D.; JOHN SIX, M.D., Defendants. ECF Nos. 7, 9

District Judge David S. Cercone

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LISA PUPO LENIHAN CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

I. RECOMMENDATION

For the reasons stated herein, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss that has been converted into a Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendants McGavitt, Washington County, and Washington County Prison Board. (Doc. No. 9.) It is further recommended that the remaining Defendants, Jane Does #1-#5 and Doctors Eisley and Six, be granted summary judgment sua sponte unless Plaintiff can show cause why the Court should not do so in his objections to this Report and Recommendation. If summary judgment is granted to Defendants Eisley and Six then their Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 7) should be denied as moot.

II. REPORT

Plaintiff Charles L. Kietz (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest. He initiated this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania, by the filing of a Praecipe for Writ of Summons on December 8, 2012. (Doc. No. 1-2.) Because Plaintiff announced his intention to bring claims for violations of his federal constitutional rights, the action was later removed to this Court by Defendants Washington County, the Washington County Prison Board, and Cheryl McGavitt (“the County Defendants”), and its removal was with the express consent of Co-Defendants Doctors Matthew Eisley and John Six (“the Doctor Defendants”).[1] (Doc. No. 1; Doc. No. 1-1; Doc. No. 1-4.)

Plaintiff’s Complaint was filed on May 15, 2013, alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution while he was detained at the Washington County Prison from October, 2010, until February, 2011. (Doc. No. 4.)

On July 15, 2013, the Doctor Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and the County Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss in the form of a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. Nos. 7, 9.) Because the County Defendants attached exhibits in support of their Motion, which this Court cannot consider when ruling on a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff was notified that the Motion would be converted into a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, and he was given an opportunity to file a response in opposition to the Motion. (Doc. No. 14.) Plaintiff filed Responses to both Motions on September 30, 2013, attaching exhibits in support of both briefs in opposition. (Doc. Nos. 22, 25.) The Doctor Defendants elected to file a Reply in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Response (Doc. No. 28), and Plaintiff then filed an Opposition to their Reply, (Doc. No. 29). The Motions are now ripe for review.

A. Standard of Review

1. Summary Judgment

The County Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss that has been converted into a Motion for Summary Judgment.

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the record indicates 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). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element to that party’s case and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence or the lack thereof that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial” or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). If a court, having reviewed the evidence with this standard in mind, concludes that “the evidence is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative, ” then summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Finally, while any evidence used to support a motion for summary judgment must be admissible, it is not necessary for it to be in admissible form. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; J.F. Feeser, Inc., v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1542 (3d Cir. 1990).

2. Judgment sua sponte

The Doctor Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss. Although they have not specifically moved for summary judgment, authority exists which provides that a district court may grant summary judgment to a non-moving party.

The Supreme Court recognizes “that district courts . . . possess the power to enter summary judgment sua sponte, so long as the losing party was on notice that [he] had to come forward with all of [his] evidence.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986); see also Gibson v. Mayor & Council of Wilmington, 355 F.3d 215, 222 (3d Cir. 2004); Chambers Dev. Co. v. Passaic Cnty. Utils. Auth., 62 F.3d 582, 584 n.5 (3d Cir. 1995). Before a district court grants summary judgment to a non-moving party it must first place the adversarial party on notice that the court is considering such sua sponte action. See Gibson, 355 F.3d at 222. The Third Circuit explained that “notice” means “that the targeted party ‘had reason to believe the court might reach the issue and receive a fair opportunity to put its best foot forward.’” Id. at 223 (quoting Leyva v. On the Beach, Inc., 171 F.3d 717, 720 (1st Cir. 1999) and Jardines Bacata, Ltd. v. Diaq-Marquez, 878 F.2d 1555, 1561 (1st Cir. 1989)) (quotations omitted). Additionally,

[w]here it appears clearly upon the record that all of the evidentiary materials that a party might submit in response to a motion for summary judgment are before the court, a sua sponte grant of summary judgment against that party may be appropriate if those materials show no material dispute of fact exists and that the other party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Id. at 224 (quoting Ramsey v. Coughlin, 94 F.3d 71, 74 (2d Cir. 1996)). Despite the general notice requirement to the nonmoving party, the Third Circuit has concluded that, notice to the adversarial party is not required in three circumstances: (1) when there exists a fully developed record; (2) when the adversarial party would not be prejudiced by a sua sponte grant of summary judgment; and (3) when the decision is based on a purely legal issue. Id.[2]

Although a district court’s sua sponte grant of summary judgment must be undertaken with the utmost caution given the serious consequences to the adversarial party, in this instance such action is appropriate. The exhibits submitted by the County Defendants, specifically Plaintiff’s medical records, clearly show that the Doctors are entitled to judgment as well. The Doctor Defendants did file a Motion to Dismiss, to which Plaintiff has responded. The undersigned believes that submission of Plaintiff’s medical records put Plaintiff on fair notice that the Court would consider summary judgment in favor of the Doctors. Moreover, Plaintiff himself submitted exhibits in opposition to the Doctor Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Therefore it appears that all evidence Plaintiff could potentially proffer in support of his claims is in the record presently before the Court.

Nevertheless, by entry of this Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff is provided with notice that the undersigned is recommending that the Court sua sponte grant the Doctors summary judgment. In his response to this recommendation, he may show cause why the Court should not do so. See Beaton v. Lindsey, No. 9:09-3176-CMC-BM, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118002, 2010 WL 4622512 (D.S.C. Nov. 5, 2010) (Report and Recommendation provided notice and opportunity to respond to the recommendation that summary judgment be granted to the non-moving party). He should further show cause why this Court should not grant summary judgment to Defendants Jane Does #1-#5, despite the fact that these Defendants have not yet been identified.

B. Background

The following is a summary of the allegations included in Plaintiff’s Complaint and the documents ...


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