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Grant v. Phillips

April 22, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph E. Irenas, U.S.D.J



IRENAS, District Judge:

This matter comes before this Court on the motion of defendants Kevin Phillips, Jeff McCart, Wayne Rodney and Adam Truitt for summary judgment on plaintiff pro se Bobby Earl Grant's claim of cruel and unusual punishment. Jurisdiction is pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant the motion for summary judgment and dismiss Grant's Complaint as to all defendants.


Bobby Earl Grant is an inmate in the New Jersey prison system. He is a diabetic who receives insulin shots and requires a special diet. *fn1 At all times relevant to this action defendants Kevin Phillips and Wayne Rodney were employed as Corrections Lieutenants at Southern State Prison. Defendant Jeff McCart was a Corrections Sergeant. Defendant Adam Truitt was an Institutional Trade Instructor at Southern State. Grant was sent to Southern State from Bayside State Prison in April, 1995.

On October 30, 1995, Grant filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that since his arrival at Southern State he "ha[d] been refused the proper dietary snacks, and sugar free meals" often "enough to cause [him] great physical discomfort and mental discomfort." He alleges that on one occasion he complained to Sergeant McCart who treated the situation "as a jocular occurrence." Grant claims that he complained to Truitt -- whom Grant alleges oversaw food preparation at Southern State -- and that Truitt "became offensive in language," showed a "pugnacious disposition," and stated "that he was not concerned about an error here or there . . . and that [Grant] should get over [his] hunger pain and grin and bear it." Grant alleges that Lieutenant Phillips tore up one of Grant's submitted "remedy form[s]" and told him that his actions "would get [Grant] into serious trouble." Sergeant McCart is alleged to have "found this a humorous scenario." Grant claims that Sergeant Rodney failed to address his concerns during Rodney's tour of duty as the compound Sergeant. *fn2 Grant also contends that he was "advised through anonymous sources that [his] meals that once were sometimes overlooked, now are frequently late or do not come at all or turn up missing items, are a direct result of [his] making waves." (Compl. ¶ 4). Grant seeks protection from cruel and unusual punishment and other appropriate equitable and fair relief. (Compl. ¶ 5).

This Court initially dismissed Grant's Complaint because the facts as alleged did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference to Grant's serious medical needs. Grant v. Wilson, et al., Civ. No. 95- 5598 (JEI) (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 1995) (slip op.). Grant appealed. The Third Circuit vacated this Court's order and directed that an evidentiary hearing be held concerning Grant's status as a diabetic and the defendants' failure to meet his medical and nutritional needs. Grant v. Wilson, et al., No. 95-5850 (3d Cir. Nov. 16, 1996) (slip op.). Magistrate Judge Kugler attempted to conduct such a hearing on December 22, 1997. Grant made general allegations at this hearing to the effect that he did not like his insulin and was not receiving proper meals. He refused to articulate his complaints with specificity or clarity. He rambled on about his complaints to Janet Reno and a lack of family visits. *fn3 Grant's conduct prompted Magistrate Judge Kugler to order that Grant be deposed so that sense might be made of his claims. Grant was deposed on January 28, 1998. Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on March 30, 1998.


"[S]ummary judgment is proper `if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Where the moving party has carried its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Idus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non- moving party may not simply rest on its pleadings to oppose a summary judgment motion but must affirmatively come forward with admissible specific evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact. See id. at 324.

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The substantive law governing the dispute will determine which facts are material, and only disputes over those facts "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248. Thus, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Idus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotes omitted).


To date Grant has not filed an opposition to the summary judgment motion. Notwithstanding that Grant thereby has failed to carry his burden of coming forward with specific evidence demonstrating that there exists a genuine issue of fact for trial, this Court has reviewed his Complaint and deposition testimony thoroughly in order to ensure that this failure on Grant's part will not result in the dismissal of a meritorious claim. Grant alleges that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment when he was incarcerated at Southern State. He claims that he did not receive a proper diabetic diet and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his needs in this regard. The Complaint involves only the time Grant was at Southern State. (Dep. of Bobby Earl Grant at 11). *fn4

The Eighth Amendment, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment upon prison inmates. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met. First, the deprivation alleged must be objectively sufficiently serious. Second, the official's state of mind must be one of deliberate indifference. Id. at 834. Deliberate indifference is more than malpractice or negligence; it requires that "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. Deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs falls within the scope of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition. Estelle v. ...

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