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Sereseroz v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 2, 2017

EMILIO SERESEROZ, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          DAVID L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Emilio Sereseroz, Jr., proceeding pro se, has sued the United States under the Federal Torts Claim Act (the “FTCA”), alleging medical malpractice. This action has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn.

         The United States has moved for summary judgment. See Dkt. Nos. 49, 52, & 53. Sereseroz opposes the motion and has filed several motions related to his opposition. See Dkt. Nos. 54, 55, 56, 57, & 59. And the United States has filed a reply brief. See Dkt. No. 58.

         The undersigned issues the following findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that, for the reasons and to the extent explained below, the Court should grant United States's motion for summary judgment, deny Sereseroz's pending motions, and dismiss this action with prejudice.

         Applicable Background

         Sereseroz alleges that the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center (the “VA”) has failed to diagnose and/or treat a litany of illnesses and disorders. See Dkt. Nos. 3, 10, & 11. Following initial screening, the Court determined that Sereseroz's complaint should be served, see Sereseroz v. Dep't of VA, No. 3:14-cv-2723-M, 2014 WL 5297375 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 22, 2014), rec. accepted, 2014 WL 5297375 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 16, 2014), and the United States answered on December 19, 2014, see Dkt. No. 19. The Court accepted the parties' proposed extended discovery period and initially set December 15, 2015 as the expert disclosure deadline and February 1, 2016 as the discovery cutoff. See Dkt. No. 25, ¶¶ 5 & 6. Sereseroz twice requested that the discovery deadline be extended, and the Court granted both requests, extending that deadline to April 1, 2016, see Dkt. No. 38, and then to September 30, 2016, see Dkt. No. 46. In total, from the date that the United States answered, Sereseroz had some 650 days to complete discovery.

         Legal Standards

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper “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). A factual “issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Weeks Marine, Inc. v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 340 F.3d 233, 235 (5th Cir. 2003). “A factual dispute is ‘genuine, ' if the evidence is such that a reasonable [trier of fact] could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Crowe v. Henry, 115 F.3d 294, 296 (5th Cir. 1997).

         If the moving party seeks summary judgment as to his opponent's claims or defenses, “[t]he moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery in the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but is not required to negate elements of the nonmoving party's case.” Lynch Props., Inc. v. Potomac Ins. Co., 140 F.3d 622, 625 (5th Cir. 1998). “Summary judgment must be granted against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. If the moving party fails to meet this initial burden, the motion must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response.” Pioneer Expl., L.L.C. v. Steadfast Ins. Co., 767 F.3d 503, 511 (5th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         “Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth” - and submit evidence of - “specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and not rest upon the allegations or denials contained in its pleadings.” Lynch Props., 140 F.3d at 625; Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); accord Pioneer Expl., 767 F.3d at 511 (“[T]he nonmovant cannot rely on the allegations in the pleadings alone” but rather “must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted)). The Court is required to consider all evidence and view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and resolve all disputed factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party - but only if both parties have introduced evidence showing that an actual controversy exists. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Pioneer Expl., 767 F.3d at 511; Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005); Lynch Props., 140 F.3d at 625. “The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor. While the court must disregard evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe, it gives credence to evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached if that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.” Porter v. Houma Terrebonne Hous. Auth. Bd. of Comm'rs, 810 F.3d 940, 942-43 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted).

         “Unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment, ” Brown v. City of Houston, 337 F.3d 539, 541 (5th Cir. 2003), and neither will “only a scintilla of evidence” meet the nonmovant's burden, Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; accord Pioneer Expl., 767 F.3d at 511 (“Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” (internal quotation marks and footnote omitted)). Rather, the non-moving party must “set forth specific facts showing the existence of a ‘genuine' issue concerning every essential component of its case.” Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998). And “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Pioneer Expl., 767 F.3d at 511 (internal quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         If, “after the nonmovant has been given an opportunity to raise a genuine factual issue, ” “the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, then there is no genuine issue for trial.” DIRECTV, Inc. v. Minor, 420 F.3d 546, 549 (5th Cir. 2005); Steadman v. Texas Rangers, 179 F.3d 360, 366 (5th Cir. 1999).

         The Court will not assume “in the absence of any proof ... that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts” and will grant summary judgment “in any case where critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. “Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment, ” and “[a] failure on the part of the nonmoving party to offer proof concerning an essential element of its case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial and mandates a finding that no genuine issue of fact exists.” Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If, on the other hand, “the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue, either because he is the plaintiff or as a defendant he is asserting an affirmative defense, he must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor.” Fontenot v. Upjohn Co.,780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). The“beyond peradventure” standard imposes a “heavy” burden. Cont'l Cas. Co. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., No. 3:04-cv-1866-D, 2007 WL 2403656, at *10 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 23, 2007). The moving party must demonstrate that there are no genuine and material fact disputes and that the party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., Martin v. Alamo Cmty. Coll. Dist., 353 F.3d ...


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