United States District Court, D. New Jersey
THE ESTATE OF DAVID HENNIS, et. al., Plaintiffs,
WARDEN ROBERT BALICKI, et al., Defendants.
B. Kugler United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiffs, the
Estate of David Hennis by and through its administrator,
Patricia Hennis, and Ms. Hennis in her own right's
(collectively “Plaintiff) Complaint, asserting
violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and related state law claims. Presently
before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 168), Third Party Defendant CFG Health
Systems, LLC's (“CFG”) motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 183), and their respective motions to seal
various exhibits (ECF Nos. 170, 187). The respective parties
filed oppositions (ECF Nos. 174, 186), as well as replies
(ECF Nos. 179, 190). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment,
deny as moot CFG's motion for summary judgment, and grant
the motions to seal as unopposed.
parties are intimately familiar with the facts of this case,
and because the Court has already set forth the background of
this matter in an earlier Opinion (ECF No. 105), the Court
will only state those facts necessary to address the instant
case arises from the suicide of David Hennis, during his
pretrial detention at the Cumberland County Jail. On or about
July 22, 2014, Mr. Hennis received aggravated assault and
related charges, and underwent an intake screening at the
jail. Mr. Hennis did not appear despondent or exhibit any
bizarre behavior during that screening.
underwent a mental health screening with CFG staff where he
denied having any thoughts or plans to commit suicide,
depression, mental health treatment, psychiatric
hospitalization, or any bizarre behavior. Additionally, Mr.
Hennis did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or
drugs, and was neat, alert, clean, oriented, and had
appropriate speech and mood. After intake, Officials placed
Mr. Hennis in general population with a referral for
substance abuse issues.
25, 2014, Mr. Hennis reported a shoulder injury from a fall,
but his medical reports were normal. At some point, staff had
placed Mr. Hennis into the medical segregation unit. On July
30, 2014, staff cleared Mr. Hennis to return to general
population but he remained in the medical segregation unit
either waiting for an x-ray or for the completion of lunch
the morning of July 30, 2014, Officer Rena Miller was
responsible for watching the medical unit and conducted cell
checks every twenty to thirty minutes. In particular, she
conducted checks at 11:30 a.m. and 11:52 a.m., but Plaintiff
alleges that “there were no inmates to check that
morning, ” as all inmates had moved to a different area
for construction work. (ECF No. 174-1, at ¶ 79).
around noon that day, Officer Miller began serving lunch and
then either she or a nurse, discovered Mr. Hennis hanging
with a sheet around his neck. Officer Miller rapidly called
an emergency code and staff responded immediately for
assistance. Staff quickly cut down Mr. Hennis, used a
defibrillator, and performed CPR until the paramedics arrived
minutes later. Officials took Mr. Hennis to the Inspira
Health Center and was pronounced dead at 1:16 p.m.
Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office
(“CCPO”) investigated the incident and found that
Mr. Hennis had hung himself from a metal conduit located in
the medical segregation unit. The jail had installed the
conduit earlier that same day.
the interviews, CCPO interviewed inmate David Ledbetter, who
said that Mr. Hennis appeared stressed, feared returning to
general population, and sought to stay in the medical unit or
a transfer to a psychiatric hospital. Inmate Ledbetter
overheard Mr. Hennis having a conversation with another
inmate, where the other inmate discussed a prior transfer to
a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt.
Consequently, the parties dispute whether an intentional or
accidental suicide occurred, i.e., whether Mr.
Hennis sought to stage a suicide attempt in order to receive
a transfer to a psychiatric hospital.
tortured procedural history set forth in the Court's
earlier Opinion, (ECF No. 105, 5-19), the Court dismissed
with prejudice CFG as a direct defendant on statute of
limitations grounds. The Court also issued monetary sanctions
against Plaintiffs counsel for his extreme carelessness and
material misstatements with regard to CFG. (ECF No. 106).
then filed a third-party complaint against CFG. (ECF No.
128). At the conclusion of discovery, Defendants and CFG
filed their respective motions for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
should grant summary judgment “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 Tolan v. Cotton, 572
U.S. 650, 656-57 (2014). 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
Cotton, 572 U.S. at 657. 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 moving
party may discharge its burden “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.
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 v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence that
may show that genuine issues of material fact exist). The
non-moving party must at least present probative evidence
from which the jury might return a verdict in his favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. 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, 477 U.S. at 322. “[Unsupported
allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel
summary judgment.” Schoch v. First Fid.
Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990).
discussing the merits, the Court must address the
deficiencies within Plaintiffs opposition, which complicate
the task before the Court and act to Plaintiff s great
detriment. Under Rule 56(c)(1)(A), any party asserting that a
fact is or is not in dispute must support that assertion by
“citing to particular parts of materials in
the record, including depositions, documents, electronically
stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
. . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials.” (emphasis added).
parties fail to follow Rule 56, a court may “(1) give
an opportunity to properly support or address the fact; (2)
consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion; (3)
grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting
materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that