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Harris v. Poole

November 15, 2006

FREDDIE HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT POOLE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hugh B. Scott United States Magistrate Judge Western District of New York

Hon. Hugh B. Scott

Consent Decision & Order

Before the Court is the defendants' motion for judgment (Docket No. 49) and the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Docket Nos. 57, 58 and 59).*fn1

Background

Plaintiff, Freddie Harris ("Harris") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 claiming that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated. In his Amended Complaint (Docket No. 28), the plaintiff asserted Corrections Officer Bouvia and Mark Mogavero violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment for failing to protect him from another inmate on July 7, 2003. (Docket No. 28).*fn2

The plaintiff's claims in this case stem from an altercation between Harris and another inmate, referred to in the papers as "Elliott". It appears that both Harris and Elliott worked as barbers at the Five Points Correctional Facility ("Five Points"). On July 7, 2003, both Harris and Elliott were assigned to the 10 Building barbershop. Harris alleges that he asked Bouvia to investigate why both inmates would be assigned to the same barbershop. (Docket No. 28 at page 10). The plaintiff asserts that Bouvia only pretended to call Mogavero to inquire into the double assignment. Harris asserts that Bouvia watched he and Elliott fight on a video and failed to protect him from Elliott. (Docket No. 28 at page 11-12). The only allegation asserted against Mogavero is that he allegedly conspired with Officer Gushlaw (who is no longer a defendant in this case) to confuse the assignments. (Docket No. 28 at pages 9 and 13).

The plaintiff and the defendants have moved for summary judgment.

Discussion

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no issues of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Trans Sport, Inc. v. Starter Sportswear, Inc., 964 F. 2d 186, 188 (2nd Cir. 1992) citing Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party and grant summary judgment only if no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party. See Taggart v. Time Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir.1991); Howley v. Town of Stratford, 217 F.3d 141 (2nd Cir. 2000). However, the non-moving party must, "demonstrate to the court the existence of a genuine issue of material fact." Lendino v. Trans Union Credit Information, Co., 970 F.2d 1110, 1112 (2nd Cir. 1992), citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). A fact is material: when its resolution would "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law" and a dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party."

General Electric Company v. New York State Department of Labor, 936 F.2d 1448, 1452 (2nd Cir. 1991), quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). While the moving party must demonstrate the absence of any genuine factual dispute, (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)), the party against whom summary judgment is sought, however, "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts... . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87(1986); McCarthy v. American Intern. Group, Inc., 283 F.3d 121 (2d Cir. 2002); Marvel Characters v. Simon, 310 F.3d 280, 285-86 (2d Cir.2002). "The non-moving party must come forward with enough evidence to support a jury verdict ... and the ... motion will not be defeated merely ... on the basis of conjecture or surmise." Trans Sport, supra, 964 F.2d at 188, quoting Bryant v. Maffucci, supra. If undisputed material facts are properly placed before the court by the moving party, those facts will be deemed admitted, unless they are properly controverted by the nonmoving party." Glazer v. Formica Corp., 964 F.2d 149, 154 (2nd Cir. 1992), citing Dusanenko v. Maloney, 726 F.2d 82 (2nd Cir. 1984). The Court's responsibility in addressing a summary judgment motion is identifying factual issues, not resolving them. See Burger King Corp. v. Horn & Hardart Co., 893 F.2d 525, 528 (2nd Cir. 1990). However, summary judgment is appropriate "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Nippon Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Skyway Freight Systems, Inc., 235 F.3d 53 (2nd Cir. 2000) quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Eighth Amendment Claims

It is settled that, under the Eighth Amendment, "prison officials have a duty ··· to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) (quoting Cortes-Quinones v. Jimenez-Nettleship, 842 F.2d 556, 558 (1st Cir.1988)). In Farmer, the Supreme Court set out the two-pronged test that determines when a failure to protect a prison inmate from assault by other inmates rises to the level of a constitutional violation. First, the prisoner must have been "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at 834. Second, the prison official must have shown "deliberate indifference" to the prisoner's safety. Id. Deliberate indifference exists when "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837; Hines v. Lacy, 189 F.3d 460 (2d Cir.1999).

It is equally well-settled that "personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983." Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir.1994). Plaintiff must allege a "tangible connection between the acts of a defendant ...


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