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Guyton v. Bacher

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 12, 2014

NELLIE M. GUYTON, Administratrix of the Estate of CHESTER L. GUYTON, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. GREGORY M. BACHER, SGT. ROBERT JOHNSON, JOHN DOE NO. 1, and JOHN DOE NO. 2, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 28) filed by Defendants Lt. Gregory M. Bacher and Sgt. Robert Johnson. For the reasons stated below, the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3) and (4). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

III. Background

This tragic case stems from the death of Chester L. Guyton ("Decedent") during a standoff with police. Plaintiff-Decedent's wife and the administratrix of his estate- initiated this action alleging that Defendants violated her husband's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint in this matter on February 7, 2012, asserting a wrongful death action and a survival action, both pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ( See ECF No. 1, Compl.). The complaint names the following four Defendants: Lt. Gregory M. Bacher, Sgt. Robert Johnson, and John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2, who were both allegedly employees of the Pennsylvania State Police. The complaint alleges that John Doe No. 1 fired the shot killing Decedent. (ECF No. 1, Compl. ¶ 5). However, Plaintiff never amended her complaint to identify the two fictitious John Doe Defendants.

Defendants Bacher and Johnson filed an answer on March 29, 2012. ( See ECF No. 6). The parties then conducted discovery. While Plaintiff was initially represented by counsel, the Court granted counsel's request to withdraw as attorney for Plaintiff on September 7, 2012. ( See ECF No. 19). Plaintiff has been unable to retain new counsel and is proceeding in this case pro se. [1] ( See ECF No. 32).

On September 26, 2013, Defendants Bacher and Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 28), a brief in support (ECF No. 29), a concise statement of material facts (ECF No. 30), and an appendix of supporting exhibits (ECF No. 31). On November 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 34) to Defendants' concise statement of material facts, but otherwise did not respond to Defendants' motion.[2]

B. Statement of Facts

As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff's response (ECF No. 34) to Defendants' concise statement of material facts falls far short of meeting the required standard set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules for the Western District, and this Court's own rules and procedures. As this Court has previously noted,

The Federal Rules clearly state that "[a] party asserting that a fact... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record..." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). This district's Local Rules set a similar standard, indicating that Responsive Concise Statements of Material Facts must address each paragraph of the moving party's Concise Statement of Material Facts by: (a) admitting or denying whether each fact is undisputed and/or material; (b) if applicable, setting forth the basis for the denial of any fact, with appropriate reference to the record; and (c) setting forth in separately numbered paragraphs any other material facts at issue. LCvR 56.C.1.a. Further, any facts set forth in the moving party's Concise Statement of Material Facts, which are claimed to be undisputed, "will be deemed admitted unless specifically denied or otherwise controverted by a separate concise statement of the opposing party." LCvR 56.E.

Rozier v. United Metal Fabricators, Inc., No. 3:09-cv-257, 2012 WL 170197, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2012). Local Rule 56.B.1 requires that references to the record must "cite to a particular pleading, deposition, answer to interrogatory, admission on file or other part of the record supporting the party's statement, acceptance, or denial of the material fact." Plaintiff has failed to comply with these rules. Defendants' concise statement of material facts provides detailed averments in separately number paragraphs with specific citations to a well-developed record. Plaintiff's response, on the other hand, lacks detail, is often non-responsive to Defendants' averments, and does not contain a single citation to the record. Accordingly, "[g]iven Plaintiff's [failure] to comply with the rules, the Court sees no other choice but to follow previous practice, and accordingly deems as admitted all facts" set forth in Defendants' concise statement of material facts. Rozier, 2012 WL 170197, at *3.[3]

Accordingly, the following facts are not in dispute. At approximately 9:30 a.m. on March 30, 2010, Dr. Duane Dilling-Decedent's doctor-called the Dispatch and Communications Center at the Pennsylvania State Police Bedford Field Office ("Dispatch Center") to report that Decedent was on his way home following a doctor's visit that morning during which he had expressed a desire to commit suicide. (ECF No. 31-16, ¶ 3). Dr. Dilling also stated that Decedent had previously expressed a desire to kill his wife, Nellie, and that Decedent had at least two guns in his home. ( Id. ).

About 15 minutes after the Dispatch Center received Dr. Dilling's call, Decedent's son-in-law, Colin Clevenger, called the Dispatch Center and stated that Decedent was threatening suicide. ( Id. ). Clevenger explained that Nellie had run from her home to Clevenger's home, which was located next door, and that Decedent had chased her. ( Id. ). Clevenger did not let Decedent into his home. (ECF No. 31-5, at 13:19-25). Decedent went back to his home, retrieved a revolver, returned to ...


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