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Griggs, v. USA

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 31, 2017

ROGER A. GRIGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
USA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) (Doc. 74) of Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson with regard to defendant United States of America's Motion (Doc. 64) to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. The United States filed an objection (Doc. 78) to the R & R and the plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 79) to the objection.

         The Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge in a report and recommendation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court must review de novo the portions of the report to which objections are made. The Court has discretion to conduct a new hearing and may consider the record before the magistrate judge anew or receive any further evidence deemed necessary. Id. “If no objection or only partial objection is made, the district court judge reviews those unobjected portions for clear error.” Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999). In this matter, the Court has received an objection to the R & R and will review those portions of the R & R de novo.

         1. Background.

         According to the amended complaint (Doc. 47), defendant United States failed to prevent an attack on the plaintiff by his cellmate on June 23, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that he informed several prison officials of his cellmate's threat and that the plaintiff, “feared for his life as a result of his cellmate's behavior.” (Doc. 47, ¶ 12). However, the defendant failed to move the plaintiff to another cell and as a result; plaintiff was brutally assaulted and injured by his cellmate.

         Defendant moved for dismissal on the basis that this Court lacks subject matter or in the alternative, that there is no evidence that prison officers were negligent. Taking all evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the R & R determined that there remains a number of material disputed facts and as such, summary judgment is not appropriate.

         2. Standard.

         Summary judgment must be granted, “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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

         The initial summary judgment burden of production is on the moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A), or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's case without actually submitting any evidence, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169.

         Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

         In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings, but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of “some alleged factual dispute between the parties, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if “a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         3. Analysis.

         The plaintiff is proceeding on one count against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that the above acts and/or omissions fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. The FTCA is a limited waiver of the Government's sovereign immunity. It gives federal courts:

exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages . . . for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be ...

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