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Marten v. Burns

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2015

DANIEL BURNS, et al., Defendants.




A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On September 3, 2013, Plaintiff Jeffrey Marten, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest in Marienville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Forest"), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Defendants Daniel Burns, Superintendent at SCI-Forest ("Burns"); E.W. Tice, Deputy Superintendent for Facilities Management at SCI-Forest ("Tice"); and A.W. Repko, Major of the Guard at SCI-Forest ("Repko").

Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety in violation of his rights under the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that, on May 15, 2013, he was physically assaulted and stabbed by an unidentified inmate during recreation period on the D-block concrete yard at SCI-Forest. (ECF No. 1, Complaint, at ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiff alleges that the assualt was undetected by prison guards and surveillance cameras because it occurred in one of several "architectural blind spots" that are present in SCI-Forest's four concrete yards. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-7). Plaintiff alleges further that, unlike inmates attending SCI-Forest's main recreation yard, inmates attending recreation in the concrete yards are not required to pass through a metal detector, nor are they subject to random pat downs by custody staff. (Id. at ¶ 8). According to Plaintiff, the presence of architectural blind spots and the lack of adequate security procedures have resulted in "numerous assaults, stabbings, and other illegal activity in the concrete yards." (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff claims that Defendants knew that the architectural blind spots in the concrete yards exposed inmates to an excessive risk of physical injury, yet they failed to take action to abate the risk. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16).

Defendants filed an answer to Plaintiff's complaint [ECF No. 15], and the parties have completed discovery. On July 25, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment [ECF the evidence of record. Plaintiff has since filed a brief in opposition to Defendant's motion [ECF

B. Standard of Review

1. Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2) provides that summary judgment shall be granted if 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." Rule 56(e)(2) further provides that when a motion for summary judgment is made and supported, "an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must - by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule - set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. If the opposing party does not so respond, summary judgment should, if appropriate, be entered against that party."

A district court may grant summary judgment for the defendant when the plaintiff has failed to present any genuine issues of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). 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, 2010 WL 2089639, at * 1 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The court must consider the evidence, and all reasonable inferences which may be drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). See also El v. SEPTA, 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

A material fact is a fact whose resolution will affect the outcome of the case under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Summary judgment is only precluded if the dispute about a material fact is "genuine, " i.e., if the evidence is such that a reasonable ...

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