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Ali v. University Correctional Health Care

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2018

AL-WAHID ALI, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH CARE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Al-Wahid Ali, a former inmate of South Woods State Prion, filed a civil rights complaint alleging that several healthcare providers and prison officials denied him proper medical care for his Hepatitis C and accompanying afflictions in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Currently pending before this Court is Defendant E. Marin's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendant Marin's motion is denied without prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Court recites the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. With respect to the claims against Defendant Marin, Plaintiff alleges that on August 26, 2016, [1] Officer Marin, Officer Watermaysk, and other unnamed corrections officers informed Plaintiff that he needed to go to the Extended Care Unit (“ECU”) for his prescribed dialysis treatment. (See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40). In response, Plaintiff requested to be provided with a wheelchair to be transported to ECU. (See id.). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Marin denied him the use of a wheelchair, which caused him to begin crawling from his jail cell to the officers' podium to request a wheelchair. (See Id. at ¶¶ 40-41). After Plaintiff was denied this request, he was thrown back in his jail cell and did not receive his prescribed dialysis treatment that day. (See Id. at ¶ 41).

         Following the incident, Plaintiff was charged with prohibited act .256, refusing to obey an order of any staff member, for failing to surrender a wheelchair that had temporarily been issued to him. (See ECF No. 18, Ex. A, at p. 1). A disciplinary hearing was held on August 31, 2016 and the hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of the offense. (See ECF No. 18, Ex. B, at pp. 1-3). The disciplinary hearing officer relied on a preliminary incident report authored by Sergeant Inman stating that Plaintiff failed to surrender a wheelchair that medical had issued to him despite orders from Nurse Tsakiris and Sergeant Inman directing him to do so. (See ECF No. 18, Ex. C, at p. 1). The disciplinary hearing officer also relied on an order from Dr. Dias dated the day after the incident stating “[Plaintiff] is medically cleared and able to walk at this time. There is no medical issue requiring a wheelchair.” (See Id. at p. 4).

         Plaintiff appealed the disciplinary hearing officer's determination, arguing that his MRI records were not presented as evidence in his defense. (See ECF No. 18, Ex. D). On September 2, 2016, the administrator found that the disciplinary hearing officer's decision was based on substantial evidence and upheld the decision and sanctions. (See ECF No. 18, Ex. E).

         On February 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a § 1983 civil rights complaint in this Court. (See ECF No. 1). On August 30, 2017, this Court permitted Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Tsakiris, Marin, Watermasysk, Flowers, and Powers[2] to proceed and granted Plaintiff's motion for pro bono counsel. (See ECF Nos. 5-6). On November 17, 2017, Defendant Marin filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint based on collateral estoppel, qualified immunity, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (See ECF No. 18). Plaintiff, through his appointed counsel, filed opposition to Defendant Marin's motion to dismiss on February 2, 2018. (See ECF No. 24). On May 29, 2018, this Court converted Defendant Marin's motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d). (See ECF No. 26).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is “material” to the dispute if it could alter the outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)) (“Where 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.'”). In deciding whether there is any genuine issue for trial, the court is not to weigh evidence or decide issues of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Because fact and credibility determinations are for the jury, the non-moving party's evidence is to be believed and ambiguities construed in its favor. Id. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

         Although the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the non-movant likewise must present more than mere allegations or denials to successfully oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The non-moving party must at least present probative evidence from which the jury might return a verdict in his favor. Id. at 257. Where the non-moving party fails to “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, ” the movant is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Collateral Estoppel

         Defendant Marin moves for summary judgement against Plaintiff, arguing that the Court should apply collateral estoppel with respect to the factual findings made by the disciplinary hearing officer in the disciplinary proceeding against Plaintiff. (See ECF No. 18, at pp. 4-6). Specifically, Defendant Marin contends that the hearing officer's findings regarding Dr. Dias's opinion of Plaintiff's need for a wheelchair entitle Defendant ...


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