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Clark v. Roy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 23, 2016

Courtney Bernard Clark, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner Tom Roy et al., Defendants.

          Courtney Bernard Clark, Minnesota Correctional Facility-Moose Lake, pro se.

          Timothy S. Christensen, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Defendant Officer Nate Drevlow.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Courtney Bernard Clark's Objections [Doc. No. 194] to United States Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer's Corrected Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), dated November 9, 2016 [Doc. No. 193]. The magistrate judge recommended that the Court grant Defendant Officer Nate Drevlow's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 160], and dismiss with prejudice Clark's Eighth Amendment claim against Drevlow.

         Pursuant to statute, this Court reviews de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's opinion to which specific objections are made, and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations” contained in that opinion. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). Based on that de novo review, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules Clark's objections and adopts the R&R in its entirety.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The procedural and factual underpinnings of this matter have been thoroughly and accurately documented in the Background section of the R&R, which the Court incorporates herein by reference. To avoid unnecessary repetition, the Court recites only those facts necessary to inform its discussion of the merits of Clark's objections. Briefly stated, this matter arises from an unfortunate incident in the early morning of April 26, 2013. Clark alleges that Drevlow, who was pushing Clark's wheelchair across the grounds of Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault (“MCF-Faribault”), intentionally pushed the wheelchair into a “huge pothole, ” causing Clark to “fl[y] out of [the] chair” and suffer various injuries to his back and hip. (Am Compl. [Doc. No. 7] at 4, 7; Pl.'s Obj. [Doc. No. 79] (“Feb. 4, 2015 Obj.”) at 5.) According to Clark, Drevlow then waited several minutes before calling for medical assistance. Clark later reported ongoing pain and discomfort resulting from the incident. (Am. Comp. at 7.) As a result, Clark brought the present claim against Drevlow under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

         On June 28, 2016, Drevlow moved for summary judgment as to Clark's claim.[1] In their various filings in support and opposition to the motion, the parties presented- unsurprisingly-widely differing versions of the events surrounding the April 26, 2013 incident. Of particular relevance here, Drevlow submitted his own and various supporting affidavits indicating that he did not know Clark well, was not angry with him on the morning of the incident, did not know of the presence of the pothole that upended Clark, and received no warnings from Clark to watch for any potholes. (See Drevlow Aff. [Doc. No. 164] ¶¶ 9, 12.) Documentary evidence provided by Drevlow further indicates that he swiftly called for medical assistance to check Clark for injury and to assist in putting Clark back in his wheelchair, and that Clark repeatedly stated that he was fine after the incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 7, Ex. A; Math Aff. [Doc. No. 163] ¶ 2.) Drevlow does admit, however, that he knew the surface upon which he was pushing Clark was “pockmarked, ” and that he could not see over the top of Clark in order to examine the roadway ahead of them. (Drevlow Aff. ¶ 5.) All in all, Drevlow denies any intent to harm Clark and presents the incident as an unfortunate accident. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 5, 7.)

         Clark did not submit any sworn testimony or other admissible evidence in opposition to Drevlow's motion. However, the magistrate judge was able to gather his version of events through consideration of his responsive memoranda and unsworn answers to interrogatories. (See generally Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. [Doc. No. 146]; Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. [Doc. No. 175]; Pl.'s Second Resp. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. [Doc. No. 189].) Clark's statements differ from those submitted by Drevlow in a number of ways, the materiality of which will be discussed below. In addition to those allegations previously listed in his pleadings, Clark essentially states that the poor condition of the grounds was common knowledge, that Drevlow had previously received notice of various whistleblowing activities on Clark's part leading to “automatic hatred” of Clark, that a safer way across the grounds existed, and that Drevlow increased the speed at which he was pushing Clark after being warned of the presence of potholes. (Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. at 2, 4.)

         After reviewing the submissions of the parties and holding a hearing, the magistrate judge recommended that this Court grant Drevlow's motion on two independent grounds. First, Judge Bowbeer observed that Clark had failed to support his opposition with admissible evidence, as required by Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (R&R at 9-10.) Second, she concluded that even if the allegations contained in Clark's memoranda and unsworn answers to interrogatories were considered by the Court, “they would not be sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact” such that summary judgment would be unwarranted. (Id. at 10-11.)

         Clark timely objected to the R&R, triggering this de novo review of the matter.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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