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Ruffin v. Knowlton

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 15, 2019

DANIEL ONEIL RUFFIN, Plaintiff
v.
MICHAEL KNOWLTON, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges Defendants acted with deliberate indifference toward his serious medical needs. (Complaint at 5-6, ECF No. 1.)

         The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 57, 59.) Following a review of the summary judgment record and after consideration of Defendants' arguments, [1] I recommend the Court grant Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on April 26, 2017, asserting claims related to the medical care of his feet and a restricted diet. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2, ) which application the Court granted on May 1, 2017. (ECF No. 4.) Because Plaintiff was “a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), and in accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), I conducted a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint, and on May 25, 2017, I recommended the Court dismiss the claims related to Plaintiff's diet and access to the commissary. (Recommended Decision after Screening Complaint, ECF No. 9.) The Court adopted the recommendation in relevant part on June 8, 2017. (Order Affirming in Part Recommended Decision, ECF No. 11.)

         On August 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, adding a disability discrimination claim and another named defendant. (ECF No. 21.) On September 19, 2017, I reviewed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and recommended that the Court dismiss the new defendant and the disability discrimination claim. (Recommended Decision on Amended Complaint, ECF No. 29.) The Court adopted the recommended decision on October 30, 2017. (ECF No. 33.)[2]

         On August 7, 2018, the Court dismissed the claims against Defendant Cichon because Plaintiff failed to respond to discovery requests as ordered. (Recommended Decision on Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 55; Order Affirming Recommended Decision, ECF No. 56.)

         Defendant Hinkley filed a motion for summary judgment on September 14, 2018, (ECF No. 57, ) along with a statement of material facts. (ECF No. 58, hereinafter DHSMF.) On September 21, 2018, Defendant Knowlton filed a motion for summary judgment, (ECF No. 59, ) along with a statement of material facts. (ECF No. 60, hereinafter DKSMF.)

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “After the moving party has presented evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, with respect to each issue on which he has the burden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor.'” Woodward v. Emulex Corp., 714 F.3d 632, 637 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Hodgens v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 144 F.3d 151, 158 (1st Cir. 1998)).

         A court reviews the factual record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, resolving evidentiary conflicts and drawing reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Perry v. Roy, 782 F.3d 73, 77 (1st Cir. 2015). If a court's review of the record reveals evidence sufficient to support findings in favor of the non-moving party on one or more of his claims, a trial-worthy controversy exists and summary judgment must be denied as to any supported claim. Id. (“The district court's role is limited to assessing whether there exists evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Unsupported claims are properly dismissed. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

         Summary Judgment Record

         When presented with a summary judgment motion, a court ordinarily considers only the facts included in the parties' statements of material facts, which statements must be supported by citations to evidence of record. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) and District of Maine Local Rule 56(b) - (d) require the specific citation to record evidence. In addition, Local Rule 56 establishes the manner by which parties must present their factual statements and the evidence on which the statements depend. A party's pro se status does not relieve the party of the obligation to comply with the court's procedural rules.[3]Ruiz Rivera v. Riley, 209 F.3d 24, 27 - 28 & n. 2 (1st Cir. 2000); Marcello v. Maine, 489 F.Supp.2d 70, 77 (D. Me. 2007).

         By rule, a party seeking summary judgment must file, in addition to its summary judgment motion, a supporting statement of material facts setting forth each fact in a separately numbered paragraph, with each factual statement followed by a citation to evidence of record that supports the factual statement. D. Me. Loc. R. 56(b). A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file an opposing statement in which it admits, denies, or qualifies the moving party's statements by reference to each numbered paragraph, with citations to supporting evidence, and in which it may set forth additional facts, in separately numbered paragraphs, with citation to supporting evidence. D. Me. Loc. R. 56(c). If an additional statement is introduced by the non-moving party, the moving party must file a reply statement in which it admits, denies, or qualifies the non-moving party's additional statements by reference to each numbered paragraph, with citations to supporting evidence. D. Me. Loc. R. 56(d).

         “Facts contained in a supporting or opposing statement of material facts, if supported by record citations as required by this rule, shall be deemed admitted unless properly controverted.” D. Me. Loc. R. 56(f). Additionally, “[t]he court may disregard any statement of fact not supported by a specific citation to record material properly considered on summary judgment.” Id. Finally, “[t]he court shall have no independent duty to search or consider any part of the record not specifically referenced in the parties' separate statement of facts.” Id.

         Nevertheless, the factual assertions contained in the verified pleadings and affidavits filed by a pro se litigant generally will be considered in the review of a summary judgment motion. That is, where a pro se litigant has failed to comply strictly with the summary judgment rules, this Court has considered the sworn assertions of record. See Clarke v. Blais, 473 F.Supp.2d 124, 128 - 30 (D. Me. 2007) (“The First Circuit has not addressed this notice debate directly, but has said, in the summary judgment context, that unrepresented plaintiffs' opposing affidavits and opposition papers are to be read ‘liberally.'” (citing Posadas de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Radin, 856 F.2d 399, 401 (1st Cir. 1988), and Mas Marques v. Digital Equip. Corp., 637 F.2d 24, 27 (1st Cir. 1980)); Demmons v. Tritch, 484 F.Supp.2d 177, 182 - 83 (D. Me. 2007).

         Factual ...


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