The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Noel L. Hillman
This matter has come before the Court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's constitutional violation claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion will be granted.
Plaintiff, Carmelo Martinez, filed a Complaint against numerous defendants claiming that the defendants violated his constitutional rights relating to the dialysis treatment he received while he was an inmate at South Woods State Prison. By Court order on August 13, 2002, all claims and defendants were dismissed except for Plaintiff's retaliation claim against Deborah Peters. Plaintiff claims that Peters, a nurse in the prison's dialysis unit, retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to redress his grievances about his medical treatment. Peters now moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim against her.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "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, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).
B. Plaintiff's Retaliation Claim
Plaintiff claims that Defendant retaliated against him because of his written grievances to prison officials about Defendant's mistreatment of him in the dialysis unit. Plaintiff's first grievance letter about Defendant was sent to "Ms. V. Bartha Quality Assurance Specialist" on June 4, 2001. In his letter, Plaintiff complained that Defendant called him out of his new work detail for dialysis when previously she had worked around his work and school schedule, and when she could have easily called in another patient. (Martinez Dep. at 24-25; Martinez Letter, Pl.'s Ex. 1.)
Following his first grievance letter about Defendant, Plaintiff claims that on June 22, 2001 Defendant deliberately placed him on a machine that she knew had failed on the previous patient. (Martinez Dep. at 39; Martinez Letters, Pl.'s Ex. 3, 4.) Plaintiff contends that he was taken off the machine after three failures and with one hour remaining of his necessary treatment time. (Martinez Dep. at 49; Martinez Letter, Pl.'s Ex. 3.) Plaintiff again wrote a grievance letter to Ms. Bartha, and he also wrote a letter to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. (Martinez Letters, Pl.'s Ex. 3, 4.)
Plaintiff claims that on June 27, 2001 he was told by another nurse, "through Ms. Peters," to sign a "refusal slip" for the remainder of the treatment he did not receive. (Martinez Dep. at 49; Martinez Letter, Pl.'s he did not "refuse" treatment, but rather he could not complete treatment because the machine failed. (Martinez Dep. at 49-52.) On July 1, 2001, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Ms. Bartha to complain that "Ms. Peters was going to commit perjury by falsifying my records to cover her wrong doings." (Martinez Letter, Pl.'s Ex. 5.)
Plaintiff also contends that on July 30, 2001 Defendant again changed his dialysis schedule "for no apparent reason other than Ms. Peters doing so in retaliation." (Martinez Letter, Pl.'s Ex. 2.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant called him for dialysis, but when he arrived he was told to come back later. (Martinez Dep. at 54-58.) Plaintiff claims that he returned at 6:00pm later that day, but he had to wait an hour before treatment because all the machines were full. (Id. at 58.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant making him walk "up once, then back, and up again" the three city blocks to dialysis when Defendant knew the unit was not ready to treat him was in retaliation for his letters. (Id. at 56.) Plaintiff also contends that his hour-long wait was ...