United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
David Eron Bouknight is a parolee who has filed a civil
rights lawsuit alleging that he was injured when a heavy chow
hall table fell on him while he was incarcerated at the
Terrell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
("TDCJ"). Bouknight claims that the table had not
been adequately inspected or maintained despite posing an
obvious danger to inmates. He further alleges that the
medical personnel who treated him for his injuries were
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. In his
live complaint, Bouknight names nine defendants (Dkt. 33 at
Court requested a Martinez report from the Texas
Attorney General's office, which the Attorney
General's office provided (Dkt. 52). The Court construed
the Martinez report as a motion for summary judgment
filed on behalf of the defendants and notified Bouknight of
that construction (Dkt. 53). Bouknight filed a response (Dkt.
54). After reviewing all of the evidence submitted, the
parties' briefing, and the applicable law, the Court
concludes that the defendants' motion for summary
judgment must be granted for the reasons that follow.
live complaint, Bouknight alleges that he suffered injuries
to his back, hip, and left knee on November 7, 2011
"when a 300-400 lb. steel dining table broke at the base
and fell over with [him]" (Dkt. 33 at pp. 5-6).
Bouknight further alleges that the table's base rusted
out and collapsed because it "is subjected to constant
moisture from the washing and cleaning of the floor after
meals" (Dkt. 33 at p. 5). According to Bouknight, few
inspections and little maintenance have been performed on the
chow hall tables, and the table that injured him in fact
broke a second time soon after it was repaired (Dkt. 33 at
pp. 5-6). Bouknight generally alleges that there were
"problems with . . . breaking tables[, ]" by which
he apparently means that other similar incidents should have
alerted Terrell Unit officials that the chow hall tables
posed a danger to inmates (Dkt. 33 at p. 3). He does not,
however, cite any specific instances of falling tables
injuring other inmates.
nine defendants can essentially be divided into three
categories: (1) Terrell Unit officials who "[were] aware
of the problems with the breaking tables but failed to act on
[them;]" (2) medical providers who showed
deliberate indifference to Bouknight's medical
needs; and (3) one grievance investigator who
"[f]ailed to answer" Bouknight's grievances and
other requests for relief and information regarding the
accident (Dkt. 33 at pp. 3-4).
THE PLRA AND SUMMARY JUDGMENTS
complaint in this case is governed by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (the "PLRA"). Upon initial screening of
a prisoner civil rights complaint, the PLRA requires a
district court to scrutinize the claims and dismiss the
complaint, in whole or in part, if it determines that the
complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted;" or "seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). The PLRA also
provides that the court "shall on its own motion or on
the motion of a party dismiss an action" if it is
satisfied that the complaint is "frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).
proceeds pro se in this case. Courts construe
pleadings filed by pro se litigants under a less
stringent standard of review. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519 (1972) (per curiam). Under this standard, "[a]
document filed pro se is 'to be liberally
construed, ' Estelle [v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976)], and 'apro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). Nevertheless, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice." Ashcroftv. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (observing that courts
"are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation"). The Supreme Court has
clarified that "a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged."Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Texas Attorney General's office has filed a
Martinez report, which the Court construes as a
motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of the
defendants. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 mandates the
entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery
and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a
sufficient showing of the existence of an element essential
to the party's case and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary
judgment, the Court must determine whether the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Id. at 322-23.
summary judgment, the initial burden falls on the movant to
identify areas essential to the non-movant's claim in
which there is an absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co. v. Reyna, 401 F.3d 347,
349 (5th Cir. 2005). The movant, however, need not negate the
elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v.
Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005).
The movant may meet its burden by pointing out the absence of
evidence supporting the non-movant's case. Duffy v.
Leading Edge Products, Inc., 44 F.3d 308, 312 (5th Cir.
movant meets its initial burden, the non-movant must go
beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.
Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d
275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001). "An issue is material if its
resolution could affect the outcome of the action. A dispute
as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." DIRECT TV Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532,
536 (5th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).
deciding whether a genuine and material fact issue has been
created, the facts and inferences to be drawn from those
facts must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the
non-movant. Reaves Brokerage Co. v. Sunbelt Fruit &
Vegetable Co., 336 F.3d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 2003).
However, factual controversies are resolved in favor of the
non-movant "only when both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts." Alexander v.
Eeds, 392 F.3d 138, 142 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). The non-movant's burden is not
met by mere reliance on the allegations or denials in the
non-movant's pleadings. See Diamond Offshore Co. v. A
& B Builders, Inc., 302 F.3d 531, 545 n.13 (5th Cir.
2002). Likewise, "conclusory allegations" or
"unsubstantiated assertions" do not meet the
non-movant's burden. Delta & Pine Land Co. v.
Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 399 (5th
Cir. 2008). Instead, the non-movant must present specific
facts which show the existence of a genuine issue concerning
every essential component of its case. Am. Eagle
Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass % Int'l, 343
F.3d 401, 405 (5th Cir. 2003). In the absence of any proof,
the Court will not assume that the non-movant could or would
prove the necessary facts. Little v. Liquid Air
Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).
cannot preclude summary judgment unless they contain
competent and otherwise admissible evidence. See Love v.
Nat'l Medical Enterprises,230 F.3d 765, 776 (5th
Cir. 2000); Hunter-Reed v. City of Houston, 244
F.Supp.2d 733, 745 (S.D. Tex. 2003). A party's
self-serving and unsupported statement in an affidavit will
not defeat summary judgment where the evidence in the record
is to the contrary. Smith v. Southwestern Bell Tel.
Co., 456 Fed.App'x 489, 492 (5th Cir. 2012)
("[W]e have repeatedly held that self-serving
statements, without more, will not defeat a motion for
summary judgment, particularly one supported by plentiful
contrary evidence."); United States v.
Lawrence,276 F.3d 193, 197 (5th Cir. 2001); In re
Hinsley,201 F.3d 638, 643 (5th Cir. 2000); see also
Scott v. Harris,550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) ("When
opposing parties tell two different ...