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Sydner v. Hedden

October 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge


Before the court is the Defendant, Willie Hedden's unopposed summary judgment motion [20].


Plaintiff, Earl Sydner was an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("DOC") at Western Illinois Correctional Center ("Western"). Plaintiff filed his complaint on April 15, 2009, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to the court's April 21, 2009 Merit Review Order, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on a claim under the Eighth Amendment that Defendant Willie Hedden used excessive force against Plaintiff. Defendant seeks summary judgment in his favor. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff cannot provide sufficient evidence to proceed with this suit and he cannot show that his rights were violated under the Eighth Amendment, as required under § 1983. Defendant also asserts that he is entitled to qualified immunity.


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). Any discrepancies in the factual record should be evaluated in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

"Summary judgment is the 'put up or shut up' moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2000). A party opposing summary judgment bears the burden to respond, not simply by resting on its own pleading but by "set[ting] out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In order to be a "genuine" issue, there must be more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "If [the non-movant] does not [meet his burden], summary judgment should, if appropriate, be entered against [the non-movant]." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Further, "[t]he plaintiff cannot merely allege the existence of a factual dispute to defeat summary judgment .. Instead, he must supply evidence sufficient to allow a jury to render a verdict in his favor." Basith v. Cook County, 241 F.3d 919, 926 (7th Cir. 2001). Specifically, the non-moving party "must present sufficient evidence to show the existence of each element of its case on which it will bear the burden at trial." Filipovic v. K&R Express Systems, Inc., 176 F.3d 390, 390 (7th Cir. 1999). Failure by the non-movant to meet all of the above requirements subjects him to summary judgment on his claims.

Affidavits must be based on the personal knowledge of the affiant and "set out facts that would be admissible in evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (emphasis added). Personal knowledge may include inferences and opinions drawn from those facts. Visser v. Packer Eng. Assoc., Inc., 924 F.2d 655, 659 (7th Cir. 1991). "But the inferences and opinions must be grounded in observation or other first-hand personal experience. They must not be based on flights of fancy, speculations, hunches, intuitions or rumors remote from that experience." Visser, 924 F.2d at 659. It is also well settled that "conclusory allegations and self-serving affidavits, if not supported by the record, will not preclude summary judgment. Keri v. Barod of Trustees of Purdue University, 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir.2006)(citing Haywood v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc., 121 F.3d 1066, 1071 (7th Cir.1997)).

Undisputed Material Facts*fn1

1. At the time relevant to his complaint, Plaintiff was housed in segregation at Western.

2. Defendant was an officer at Western who worked in the segregation wing. (Def's Exhibit A, Deposition of Earl Sydner, p. 8.)

3. On August 22, 2008, the date of the alleged injury, Plaintiff had an altercation with an inmate worker. (Def's Ex. A, p. 10.) He threw a carton of water at the inmate through his food slot. (Def's Ex. A, p. 10.)

4. The food slot, also known as a chuckhole, is a box on the cell door that measures about 10 inches wide and 4 inches high, and is located parallel to the upper thigh of the Plaintiff. (Def's Ex. A, pp. 20-21.) This slot locks from the outside and the door swings down to open. ( Def's Ex. A, p. 22.) The outside edges of the slot are sharp. (Def's Ex. A, p. 21.) The chuckholes are normally kept shut, and are usually opened when the inmates are being fed, when trash is being picked up, or when the nurses are passing out medication. (Def's Ex. A, pp. 34-35.)

5. An officer told Plaintiff that he was being charged for attempting to assault an officer. (Def's Ex. A, p. 10.) A staff assault sign was placed on Plaintiff's cell. (Def's Ex. B, Offender Disciplinary Report dated August 22, 2008, p. 2.) Plaintiff did not receive the actual ...

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