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Media Alerts - Tyree v. United States -- Fourth Circuit
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April 4, 2016
  Tyree v. United States -- Fourth Circuit
Pro Se Appellant Prevails: Federal Inmate Granted Opportunity for Discovery Before Court Reviews Merits

Areas of Law: Civil Law (Torts), Civil Procedure

Issue Presented: Whether the district court abused its discretion in entering summary judgment prior to discovery.

Brief Summary: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ("the court") vacated and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government because the court had not allowed the parties to engage in the discovery process. The court found that discovery might have created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.

Extended Summary: Scott Tyree ("Tyree"), a federal prison inmate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), alleging that prison officials failed to protect him from, and failed to respond promptly to, an attack by his cellmate. Based primarily on the Government's affidavits accompanying its motion for summary judgment, the district court ruled that the prison guards responded immediately to the altercation, and granted summary judgment for the Government.

Tyree appealed this determination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, contending that the district court abused its discretion in entering summary judgment prior to discovery. Tyree emphasized that there was a dispute over how quickly the prison officials responded and this could have been resolved by video surveillance in the prison and written reports. Additionally, he asserted that prison records might show whether his cellmate had an institutional record indicating he should not have been housed with Tyree. Lastly, Tyree argued that he could have discovered whether the emergency system, including the tone and light, at the prison, was operational. The Fourth Circuit agreed with Tyree and ultimately vacated and remanded the district court's granting of summary judgment to the government, finding that discovery would potentially have created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.

To read the full opinion, click here.

Panel: Judges Motz, Floyd, and Davis

Argument Date: 02/19/2016

Date of Issued Opinion: 03/23/2016

Docket Number: Case No. 15-7528

Decided: Vacated and remanded by unpublished per curiam opinion

Case Alert Author: Janna Domico, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Scott Tyree, Appellant Pro Se. Michael Bredenberg, SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Per Curiam

Dissenting Opinion: None

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/04/2016 02:35 PM     4th Circuit  

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