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Denton v. United States

August 23, 2010

PAUL DENTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James F. Holderman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Paul Denton, filed suit, pro se, against the United States of America, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, asserting claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346 (hereinafter, "FTCA"). Plaintiff alleges that on October 1, 2003, while being transferred by airplane from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Transfer Center to the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the airplane developed mechanical difficulties necessitating a diversion to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. On landing, the landing gear failed, causing a frontal crash. Plaintiff alleges that the U.S. Marshal failed to exercise due care in evacuating the inmates from the plane, causing him injury to his back and spine. Plaintiff further alleges he was denied adequate medical care for the injuries he sustained, first in receiving no care at all at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, and then receiving the wrong medication leading to convulsions. Plaintiff may also be alleging constitutional violations pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1997), as he makes generalized allegations of violations of his First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights.

Plaintiff initially filed his complaint in the United State District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (Case No. 07 C 2670) and it was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois on August 8, 2008. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [#39] alleging that Plaintiff's claims were time barred and seeking to dismiss any Bivens claims he might have. Defendants withdrew their motion on May 27, 2009 in the face of limited discovery requests from Plaintiff. Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on February 26, 2010, alleging the same arguments they made in their withdrawn motion to dismiss: 1) Plaintiff's claims are time-barred; and 2) Plaintiff's Bivens claims fail. For the reasons stated herein, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). All of the evidence and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Miller v. American Family Mutual Ins., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment may be granted when no "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, a party cannot defeat summary judgment by relying on unsubstantiated facts or by merely resting on its pleadings. See Hemsworth, II v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Greer v. Board of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 729 (7th Cir. 2001). Instead, the party that bears the burden of proof on an issue must affirmatively demonstrate, with admissible evidence, that a genuine issue of material fact exists that requires a trial. See Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490.

When Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment, they included a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" as required by Local Rule 56.2; Timms v. Frank, 953 F.2d 281, 285 (7th Cir. 1992); Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 102 (7th Cir. 1982). This notice clearly sets out the requirements of this Court's Local Rule 56.1. In particular, the notice explains that Plaintiff's response must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) and Local Rule 56.1

Local Rule 56.1(b) requires a party opposing a motion for summary judgment to file:

(3) a concise response to the movant's statement that shall contain:

(A) a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon, and

(B) a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require denial of summary judgment, including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.

L.R. 56.1(b). The district court may require strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Serv., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004); Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir 2000) (strict compliance with the local rules governing summary judgment is upheld given the importance of local rules that structure the summary judgment process); United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991) ("Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs").

Although pro se plaintiffs are entitled to lenient standards, compliance with procedural rules is required. Members v. Paige, 140 F.3d 699, 702 (7th Cir. 1998) ("[R]ules apply to uncounseled litigants and must be enforced"); Jones v. Phipps, 39 F.3d 158, 163 (7th Cir.1994). Despite being given this notice, Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' Rule 56.1 statement of facts. See "Traverse to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment", [#69]. Consequently, Defendants' facts contained in their Rule 56.1 statement, to the extent that they are material and adequately supported by the record, are deemed admitted.

Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will consider the factual assertions he makes in his response, but only to the extent that Plaintiff could properly testify about the matters at trial -- that is, only with respect to those ...


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