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Galloway v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 8, 2017

RASHFORD E. GALLOWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          RASHFORD E. GALLOWAY P.O. BOX 12 OVER RIVER ORANGE SIGN POST OFFICE ST. JAMES, JA WEST INDIES [1] APPEARING PRO SE

          KRISTIN LYNN VASSALLO OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY 970 BROAD STREET NEWARK, N.J. 07102 ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter concerns claims by Plaintiff against the Federal Bureau of Prisons that his assignment to a third-floor cell while he was incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix aggravated his back injury, causing him further injury.[2] For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be granted.[3]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Rashford Galloway, arrived at FCI Fort Dix in February 2007. In November 2012, Plaintiff was assigned to a two-person cell on the third floor of Building 5752 in the east compound of Fort Dix, and in to travel between floors, inmates used one of two staircases. On November 29, 2012, Plaintiff was walking up one of the stairwells in Building 5752 carrying a bag from the commissary. As he climbed from the second to the third floor, Plaintiff's knee “gave out” due to shooting pain, which caused him to fall backwards and hit his back and hip on the stairs.

         Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant is liable for his fall.[4] Rather, he contends that Defendant's failure to relocate him to a first-floor cell after his fall exacerbated his back injury. Plaintiff remained in his third-floor cell from the date of his fall until his transfer on October 29, 2013 to another institution. During most of that time, Plaintiff used a wheelchair and cane to get around the prison. Plaintiff claims that having to go up and down three flights of stairs multiple times a day, often on his hands and knees, made his back injury worse, and constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

         Defendant has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff has not provided any evidence to support his contention that the location of his cell on the third floor aggravated his back injury. Defendant further argues that Plaintiff has not provided any evidence to refute Defendant's expert, who reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and determined that the medical records establish that Plaintiff's condition actually improved during his course of treatment for the injuries he sustained in the fall. Thus, Defendant argues that it is entitled to judgment in its favor on Plaintiff's negligence claim.

         Plaintiff has opposed Defendant's motion, [5] and argues that Defendant was negligent in Plaintiff being forced to remain in a third-floor cell, where at times he had to crawl on his hands and knees to get to and from his cell, and that such circumstances also constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Defendant has construed Plaintiff's complaint to only assert a claim of negligence, but argues that even if Plaintiff's complaint could be read to assert a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation, it would fail because the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity for this constitutional tort claim, and because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, which is a jurisdictional prerequisite for prisoners before filing suit for constitutional claims.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Subject matter jurisdiction

         Because Plaintiff has lodged his negligence claim against the United States, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1) (“[T]he district courts . . . shall have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages, accruing on and after January 1, 1945, for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.”).

         B. Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory answers, demonstrate 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(a).

         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).

         C. Analysis

         1. Plaintiff's ...


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