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Rivera v. McCoy

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 11, 2017



          Hon. John E. Jones III, Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Rivera (“Plaintiff” or “Rivera”) commenced this action on October 29, 2015, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendant C.O. II Sergeant R. McCoy (“McCoy”). (Doc. 1). Presently before the Court is McCoy's motion (Doc. 26) for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.


         Summary judgment “should be rendered 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original); Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990). A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Id.; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp., 79 F.3d 1358, 1366 (3d Cir. 1996). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (stating that the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”); Wooler v. Citizens Bank, 274 F. App'x. 177, 179 (3d Cir. 2008). The party opposing the motion must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case, which it bears the burden of proving at trial, because “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323; see also Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). “[T]he non-moving party ‘may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.'” Picozzi v. Haulderman, 2011 WL 830331, *2 (M.D. Pa. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)). “Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true.” Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).


         During his September 9, 2016 deposition, Rivera acknowledged that he assaulted Corrections Officer Lewis (“C.O. Lewis”) on January 20, 2015, while housed at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas. (Doc. 29, ¶ 5). During the assault, C.O. Lewis lost his left eye. (Id. at 6). Rivera was sanctioned to 270 days in the Restricted Housing Unit. (Id. at 8).

         A. Grievance No. 580861

         At the end of June or early July 2015, Rivera had his first contact with Defendant McCoy at SCI Dallas. (Id. at 13). On August 7, 2015, Rivera filed a grievance accusing Defendant McCoy of engaging in the following conduct: (1) threatening to take Rivera's eye out in retaliation for the assault he committed on C.O. Lewis on January 20, 2015, (2) threatening to fabricate misconduct reports, (3) threatening to destroy his personal property, (4) calling him names, and (5) threatening that, along with the assistance of Sergeant Bienkowski, he would “get [him] back for what [he] did [to C.O. Lewis].” (Id. at 15). On August 8, 2015, Rivera filed a separate grievance contending that Defendant McCoy stated, “I don't care who you tell. I'm still coming for that eye when you get transferred. I'll see you in the ID room….” (Id. at 16). The grievances were consolidated and assigned Grievance Number 580861. (Id. at 17). On August 10, 2015, the Grievance Coordinator informed Rivera that, because of his allegation of abuse, an investigation would be conducted by the Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence (“OSII”) in accordance with DC-ADM 001. (Id. at 20).

         Rivera's grievance was denied on August 24, 2015. (Id. at 21). Rivera appealed and indicated, for the first time, that he had ten unsworn declarations from other inmates. (Id. at 22). He did not name the inmates or submit the declarations. (Id.) On September 1, 2015, the Facility Manager upheld the denial of the grievance. (Id. at 27). On September 4, 2015, Rivera appealed to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances & Appeals (“SOIGA”); SOIGA referred the grievance to OSII. (Id. at 28, 29).

         The OSII Investigation Report dated November 3, 2015, found that Rivera's allegations of inmate abuse were unsubstantiated. (Id. at 30, 32; Doc. 28-6, pp. 4-6). In the Summary of Findings, Security Lt. McNulty noted that Rivera refused to be brought to security for an interview and refused to identify the inmates who wrote unsworn declarations. (Id. at 32-34; Id. at 5). Defendant McCoy was interviewed and denied all allegations and asserted that he carried himself in a professional manner. (Id. at 35); Id.).

         On December 10, 2015, SOIGA cited to the findings in the OSII Report and upheld the denial of Rivera's grievance. (Id. at 30; Doc. 28-5, p. 58). On December 22, 2015, the Chief Grievance Officer from SOIGA upheld the denial citing to the OSII investigation and all other levels of review. (Id. at 31; Id. at p. 59).

         Attached to Rivera's complaint are a number of declarations purportedly penned by fellow inmates housed in the RHU at the relevant time. (Doc. 1-3, pp. 2-11, 19-21, 25-28, 32-38). The declarations contain the fellow inmates' versions of the August 7, 2015, and August 8, 2015, exchanges between Rivera and Defendant McCoy. (Id.) All were executed on either August 7, 2015, or August 8, 2015. (Id.)

         B. ...

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