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Wood v. Brown

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 14, 2019

THOMAS WOOD, Plaintiff
v.
OFFICER BROWN, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Thomas Wood (“Wood” or “Plaintiff”), at all times relevant a state inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Benner Township (“SCI-Benner”), Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, commenced this action on September 10, 2018. (Doc. 1). Currently pending is Defendant Brown's (“Brown”) motion (Doc. 36) pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking an entry of summary judgment on all claims. The motion is accompanied by a statement of facts (Doc. 37), brief (Doc. 38) and exhibits (Doc. 39).

         Based on Wood's failure to oppose the motion, an Order (Doc. 41) issued on September 13, 2019, directing Wood to oppose the motion on or before September 30, 2019. The Court cautioned him that his failure to file an opposition brief and statement of material facts would render the motion unopposed and would result in an admission to Defendant's statement of material facts. (Doc. 41). He has neither opposed the motion nor sought an extension of time in which to do so. The motion is therefore unopposed and Defendant's statement of facts is deemed admitted. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

         I. Standard of Review

         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).

         II. Statement of Material Facts

         “A motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 shall be accompanied by a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts . . . as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried.” See L.R. 56.1. The opposing party shall file a separate statement of the material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried. Id. “All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party.” Id. Because Wood failed to oppose Defendant's statement of facts, all facts contained therein are deemed admitted.

         Wood's action arises out of a July 7, 2018 incident that occurred while he was housed in the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) at SCI-Benner. (Doc. 38, ¶¶ 1, 2; Exhibit 1, Complaint, p. 4, 5, ¶¶ B, C; Doc . 39-1, p. 20, lines 20-23, 25, p. 21, lines 1-4). On that date, Brown and another unidentified corrections officer arrived at Wood's assigned RHU cell to escort him to triage for a haircut. (Id. at 3, 4; Doc. 39-1, p. 20, lines 17-20, p. 53 lines 12-14).

         The incident occurred in an area which is under video surveillance.[1] (Id. at 5, Doc. 39-2, pp. 2-4, Declaration of Holly Quist (“Quist Decl.”) and video). The video depicts Defendant Brown and the other corrections officer removing Wood from his cell. (Exhibit 3, 9:24:50). Upon exiting the cell, Wood is observed speaking to Defendant Brown in an aggressive manner and repeatedly turning around; Defendant Brown attempts to move him in a forward direction along an elevated walkway. (Id. at 9:24:50 to 9:25:40). It takes nearly a minute for Defendant Brown and the other corrections officer to walk Wood a short distance to a set of stairs. (Id. at 9:24:50 to 9:25:40). When they arrive at the top of the stairs, Wood makes a sudden movement and turns away from the stairs. (Id. at 9:25:41). Defendant Brown responds by pushing Wood away from the stairs and against the wall behind them. (Id. at 9:25:41-9:25:43). The other officer is seen radioing for assistance. (Id. at 9:25:44). After a brief scuffle, the officers are able to regain control and Wood is again walking with Brown and the other corrections officer. (Id. at 9:25:41 to 9:25:56). Wood continues to turn around and speak as the officers are attempting to move him forward; they are unable to move him down the stairs. (Id. at 9:26:00). A third corrections officer arrives. (Id. at 9:26:12). Wood continues to turn around and speak to Brown. (Id. at 9:26:00 to 9:26:35). The three corrections officers are eventually successful in walking Wood down the stairs and through a door off the common area. (Id. at 9:26:56). Wood returns to the common area approximately nine minutes later. (Id. at 9:35:16). He has no apparent injuries. He is escorted back to his cell without incident. (Id. at 9:35:15 to 9:37:20).

         Photographs taken on that date do not show significant injuries. (Doc. 39-3, Declaration of Michael Bell (“Bell Decl.”), Safety Manager, SCI-Benner, ¶ 2-4; pp. 4-12).

         III. ...


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