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Duncan v. Horning

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

November 13, 2013

JIMMY D. DUNCAN, #268420 Plaintiff,
v.
D. KENNETH HORNING MR. WADE, CHIEF OF SECURITY Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DeBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Procedural History

This prisoner civil rights Complaint for damages, filed on February 11, 2013, raised a failure-to-protect claim. Plaintiff alleged that in 2010, during major construction at the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC") compound, work crews unearthed rocks which were left lying around and openly accessible to anyone using the walkway to the MCTC gymnasium, dining hall, medical department and various housing units. Plaintiff complains that after work hours the site was left unattended, and on November 4, 2010, he was severely attacked by another MCTC inmate who used the construction site rocks, placed in a sock, to fracture his skull. He contends that he underwent brain injury surgery at a local hospital, resulting in the removal of a piece of his skull and bone fragments.[1] (ECF No. 1).

Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment in response to the Complaint. (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff has filed an Opposition and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel. (ECF Nos. 14 & 16). The pending dispositive motion is ready for consideration and may be resolved without hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For reasons to follow, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be denied and Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel shall be granted.

Standard of Review

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a):

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall 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. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion:

By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

AThe party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should Aview the evidence in the light most favorable to....the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also abide by the Aaffirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

Because summary judgment is a final adjudication on the merits, courts must employ the device cautiously. See Hulsey v. State of Texas, 929 F.2d 168, 170 (5th Cir. 1991). In prisoner self-represented cases, courts must be careful to "guard against premature truncation of legitimate lawsuits merely because of unskilled presentations." Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1241 (5th Cir. 1989) ( quoting Murrell v. Bennett, 615 F.2d 306, 311 (5th Cir. 1980)).

Analysis

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