United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
Introduction and Procedural History
afternoon of June 30, 2011, Plaintiff Florence Gaffney was in
the lobby of the Social Security Administration office in
Scranton, Pennsylvania, when Administrative Law Judge Sridhar
Boini allegedly walked up behind her in an intoxicated state,
reached under her right arm, and grabbed her breasts. As a
result of the incident, Plaintiff filed suit alleging that
Boini, the United States, Knight Protective Services, Inc.,
Steamtown Mall Associates, L.P., and Prizm Asset Management
Company all negligently caused her injuries. (Doc. 1).
Presently before the Court is the United States' Motion
for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 83). For the reasons that follow,
this Court will deny the United States' Motion.
Statement of Undisputed Facts
accordance with Local Rule 56.1, the United States submitted
a Statement of Material Facts in support of its Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. 88), and Plaintiff submitted a
response, (Doc. 97). Thus, the following facts are
undisputed, except as specifically noted:
2008, Sridhar Boini became an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") with the Social Security Administration.
(Dep. of Sridhar Boini, Doc. 98-10 at 23-24). He was
initially assigned exclusively to an office in Wilkes-Barre,
Pennsylvania, but at some point he also began to work one to
two days a week at the Social Security office in Scranton.
(Id. at 23-24, 69). Around the same time he became
an ALJ, Boini also began to turn to alcohol to relieve his
stress. (Id. at 17-18, 35-37). While Boini maintains
that this was not problematic at first, his drinking steadily
increased over the next few years and culminated in a
diagnosis of alcohol dependency in 2012. (Id. at
to 2010, Boini would sometimes go out to lunch with coworkers
and have one to two drinks before returning to the office.
(Id. at 44, 46-47). According to Boini, these
lunches would occur once a week at most, but were generally
less frequent. (Id. at 44, 46). Then, in January of
2010, Boini went out to lunch with a couple of coworkers in
Wilkes-Barre and had several drinks. (Id. at 38-39).
After lunch was over, Boini took a walk by himself and, after
his coworkers left, returned to the restaurant and had a few
more drinks. (Id. at 39). When he returned to the
office he did not have his key card and began to bang loudly
on the employee door until it was opened by someone.
(Id. at 41).
office's Chief ALJ at the time was Edward Brady. (Dep. of
Edward Brady, Doc. 98-12 at 6-7, 18). Although Brady was not
at work when the incident occurred, he received a call from a
supervisor who was concerned that Boini had been drinking,
(Id. at 19). A few days later, Brady talked to Boini
and advised him that, as an ALJ, Boini needed to be very
careful about how he acted in the office. (Id. at
20). According to Boini, Brady also stated, "if
you're going to do that, just sign out and take leave for
the rest of the day. Don't come back to the office."
(Dep. of Sridhar Boini, Doc. 98-10 at 44).
this time, Boini began to try and avoid consuming alcohol in
Wilkes-Barre in an effort to conceal his drinking from
management. (Id. at 59-60). Nevertheless, starting
in 2011, the frequency at which Boini would consume alcohol
during the workday increased. (Id. at 50). He would
use the days he worked in Scranton "to consume alcohol
during a workday and slip under the radar."
(Id. at 89). When in Wilkes-Barre, Boini would still
occasionally go out to lunch with coworkers and have a drink,
but also would go to lunch by himself, (Id. at
30, 2011, Plaintiff, Florence Gaffney, went to the Scranton
Social Security office to fill out a form. (Dep. of Florence
Gaffney, Doc. 98-1 at 8, 12). While completing the form, she
noticed someone who smelled strongly of alcohol come up
behind her. (Id. at 12). The person then reached
over and grabbed her breasts. (Id. at 13, 15-16).
She turned around, saw a man standing there, and said
"Who are you to do that to me?" (Id. at
13). The man responded "I'm the Judge."
(Id). Plaintiff immediately went to the security
guard stationed in the lobby of the Social Security office
and reported the incident. (Dep. of Michael Nesko, Doc. 98-2
at 38-39). She pointed to the man who had grabbed her and
asked the guard, Michael Nesko, to identify him.
(Id. at 39-40). Nesko identified the man as Boini.
(Id. at 39).
Standard of Review
summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims
that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any
material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to
materiality, [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
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, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has
been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts
contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a
genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177,
111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may
not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the
pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue
exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party
asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion by citing to particular parts of
materials in the record ... or 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)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment
should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the
cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the
record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "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 N.
Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert,
denied 507 U.S. 912, 113 S.Ct. 1262, 122 L.Ed.2d 659
"facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute
as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party
has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,
its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial. 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. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one
of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no