United States District Court, D. Delaware
John P. Deckers & Joseph M. Bernstein, Wilmington, DE, Attorneys for Plaintiff Anthony Hutt.
Ryan Patrick Connell, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Defendant George Hill.
LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Anthony Hutt ("Plaintiff'), an inmate housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (the "JTVCC"), filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 3) Defendant, George Hill ("Defendant"), moved for summary judgment on September 24, 2012. (D.I. 17) For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
On February 17, 2012, the Court granted Plaintiff permission to proceed informa pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5) Following screening of Plaintiff's original Complaint (D.I. 3), which he filed pro se, the Court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims without prejudice. (D.I. 8) On June 13, 2012, counsel entered their appearance for Plaintiff and filed an amended complaint on Plaintiff's behalf. (See D.I. 9, 10)
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint names George Hill, a correctional officer at the JTVCC, as the lone defendant. (D.I. 9) Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief based upon an alleged violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as money damages and costs. ( Id. )
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant used excessive force on him while he served a term of incarceration at the JTVCC. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, on November 23, 2011, Defendant approached Plaintiff and inexplicably sprayed him in the face with a chemical agent, believed to be pepper spray. ( Id. at 2) Plaintiff claims that he was then placed in handcuffs and forcibly removed from his prison cell. ( Id. ) Plaintiff adds that Defendant subsequently pushed him down a flight of steps, causing him to land face down on the floor. After being forced to lie on his face while still hand cuffed for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, Plaintiff claims that he was escorted to a "lockdown" cell located in the Maximum Security Unit at the JTVCC. Plaintiff further maintains that Defendant's actions were intentional, for the purpose of causing him harm, and not for any lawful purpose. ( Id. )
On December 15, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a grievance to the authorities at the JTVCC. (D.I. 18 Ex. 1) The grievance was rejected because it was filed more than ten days after the date the incident was alleged to have occurred. ( Id. ) Plaintiff did not appeal the denial of his grievance pursuant to the JTVCC's administrative process. ( See id. at Ex. 2, 3)
III. LEGAL STANDARDS
"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). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n. 10 (1986). An assertion that a fact cannot be - or, alternatively, is - genuinely disputed must be supported either by citing to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "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)(l)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court will "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Service, 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue") (internal quotation marks omitted). However, the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment;" and a factual dispute is genuine only where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (entry of summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will ...