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Bunkley-Claybrooks v. Shelly's of New York

August 14, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge


The plaintiff, Velma S. Bunkley-Claybrooks, brings this pro se action alleging food poisoning against the defendants, Johnmar Inc. d/b/a Shelly's of New York, i/s/h/a Shelly's of New York c/o the Fireman Hospitality Group-Café Concepts. The defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.


The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may not be granted unless "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 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "[T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224. The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying the matter that it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts that are material and "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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Summary judgment is appropriate if it appears that the non-moving party cannot prove an element that is essential to the non-moving party's case and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Cleveland v. Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp., 526 U.S. 795, 805-06 (1999); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Powell v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 364 F.3d 79, 84 (2d Cir. 2004). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1223. Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Chambers v. T.R.M. Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994).

If the moving party meets its initial burden of showing a lack of a material issue of fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with "specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party must produce evidence in the record and "may not rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532 (2d Cir. 1993); see also Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114-15 (2d Cir. 1998); Singh v. New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., No. 03 Cv. 5238, 2005 WL 1354038, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2005).

Where, as here, a pro se litigant is involved, although the same standards for dismissal apply, a court should give the pro se litigant special latitude in responding to a summary judgment motion. See McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 279 (2d Cir. 1999) (courts "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them 'to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest'") (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). In particular, the pro se party must be given express notice of the consequences of failing to respond appropriately to a motion for summary judgment. See McPherson, 174 F.3d at 281; Vital v. Interfaith Med. Ctr., 168 F.3d 615, 620-21 (2d Cir. 1999).


In this case, in accordance with Rule 56.2 of the Local Rules of the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the defendants served the plaintiff with Notice to Pro Se Litigant Who Opposes a Motion for Summary Judgment dated March 24, 2009 ("Notice to Pro Se Litigant"). The Notice advised the plaintiff of the procedures for responding to a motion for summary judgment, including the requirement that the plaintiff submit a response to the defendants' statement pursuant to this District's Local Rule 56.1 and to submit counter-evidence. The plaintiff was also provided with a copy of Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as Local Rules 56.1 and 56.2.

Any allegedly undisputed fact not "specifically controverted" by the opposing party's Rule 56.1 statement "will be deemed to be admitted ." Local Rule 56.1(c); see also Dunkin' Donuts Inc. v. Barr Donut, LLC, 242 F. Supp. 2d 296, 298-99 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). Even undisputed facts, however, must be supported by the evidence presented. See Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004).

The plaintiff's responsive papers are deficient. In response to the Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Defs.' 56.1 Stmt."), the plaintiff merely submitted an "Answer," see Notice in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Stmt."), that "ignores a number of defendants' record-based factual assertions and contains conclusory factual allegations with no citations to the record." Sterbenz v. Attina, 205 F. Supp. 2d 65, 68 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). "Where plaintiff has not responded to defendants' factual assertions -- all of which are established by documentary evidence and/or the deposition testimony of plaintiff . . . -this Court has deemed those facts uncontroverted." Id.

Therefore, for the purposes of this motion, the defendants' allegedly undisputed facts that are supported by the record and which the plaintiff has not specifically controverted with admissible evidence in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1 will be deemed admitted.


The following facts are undisputed unless ...

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