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Foulke v. McCloud

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 16, 2014

JAMES FOULKE, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
RICO McCLOUD, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is proceeding through counsel with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On January 7, 2014, the Court screened the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and permitted the complaint to proceed in part. Presently before the Court are two motions for summary judgment. The first is filed by defendant County of Gloucester (hereinafter the "County"). Defendants Reco Mcleod[1] and Michael Tull have separately filed a second motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motions for summary judgment will be granted.

II. LEGAL STANDARD ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should 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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kreschollek v. S. Stevedoring Co., 223 F.3d 202, 204 (3d Cir. 2000). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "[W]ith respect to an issue on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof... the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

If the moving party meets its threshold burden, the opposing party must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence on which nonmoving party must rely to support its assertion that genuine issues of material fact exist). "[U]nsupported allegations... and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006) ("To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party needs to show specific facts such that a reasonable jury could find in that party's favor, thereby establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial.")

III. BACKGROUND

As the Court noted in its screening opinion, this case centers around plaintiff's allegations that McLeod and Tull, who are correctional officers at the Gloucester County Jail, brutally beat plaintiff in September, 2011, causing him to suffer an injury to his forearm/wrist. Plaintiff's allegations gave rise to an excessive force claim against McLeod and Tull and a failure to train claim against the County that were permitted to proceed past screening.

In support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants rely on previous sworn statements made by plaintiff with respect to how he sustained his injury. On November 4, 2011, plaintiff was charged with aggravated assault and conspiracy. Plaintiff purportedly conspired with correctional officer Thomas Hahn to assault another inmate, Patrick Georgette. ( See County Mot. S.J. (hereinafter "Dkt. No. 8-1") Ex. 2.) Before plaintiff was charged, the assault on Georgette was investigated by the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office. In connection with that investigation, plaintiff agreed to conduct an interview under oath with investigators on September 26, 2011. ( See Dkt. No. 8-1 p. 23-215.) At that sworn interview, plaintiff admitted to assaulting Georgette. ( See id. at p. 30-31.) Furthermore, he explained to investigators that this assault stopped as plaintiff's hands hurt because he had broken his wrist. ( See id. at p. 32.) Plaintiff stated during his sworn interview that "Tommy" put him up to assaulting Georgette, a reference to correctional officer Thomas Hahn. ( See id. at p. 107-08.)

The defendants also have submitted some of plaintiff's medical records to support their claim that plaintiff did not suffer a broken wrist at the hands of McLeod and Tull, but rather during his assault of Georgette. The medical records state that plaintiff was involved in an altercation with another inmate around 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. on September 14, 2011. ( See County of Gloucester Mot. S.J. Reply (hereinafter "Dkt. No. 16") at Exs. 4 & 5.) Plaintiff was seen by medical on September 15, 2011 and complained of pain to his hand and wrist. ( See id. ) Plaintiff was then sent to the hospital emergency room for an x-ray which revealed the wrist injury. ( See id. Ex. 5.) Plaintiff was then given a splint and a prescription for the pain. ( See id. )

Plaintiff opposes the motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff admits in his response in opposition that it can be inferred from his sworn September 26, 2011 statement to investigators that he told them that he fractured his wrist during the assault of Georgette. ( See Dkt. No. 15 at p. 1.) However, plaintiff argues that he only made this inference because he was fearful of the repercussions if he implicated McLeod and Tull as the actual culprits who broke his wrist. Accordingly, plaintiff attached an affidavit to his response to the motions for summary judgment that attempts to explain his reasons for not being truthful during his sworn statement with respect to how he broke his wrist. The affidavit states in part:

2. I realize that on September 26, 2011, I gave a sworn statement to county detectives, and in that statement, I said that, "I broke my wrist."
3. However, it is not accurate to conclude that I broke my wrist as a result of striking Patrick Georgette at about 4:00 p.m. on September 14, 2011.
4. I believe that my wrist was broken on September 14, 2011, when corrections officers Reco Mcleod and Michael Tull beat me, ...

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