A litigator learns early on her career how summary judgment works. That's because most civil cases are met with such a motion at the close of discovery. Any disputed issue of fact will deny the motion and the case goes to the jury to resolve those factual issues. But not every case. This is one of them.
The case is Bryant v. Iheanacho, a summary order issued on on September 23. Plaintiff, who is housed in some kind of state facility (the court decision does not clarify this) is suing for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He says that two doctors never personally evaluated him. Under normal circumstances, plaintiff's testimony to that effect might send this case to the jury. But the Court of Appeals (Livingston, Chin and Nardini) notes that, in the summary judgment world, it has recognized "a narrow exception in the rare circumstance where the plaintiff relies almost exclusively on his own testimony, much of which is contradictory and incomplete" such that the case must be dismissed even though portions of that testimony highlight a disputed fact issue. That case was Jeffries v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549 (2d Cir. 2005).
Summary judgment in this case is affirmed on authority of Jeffries. "Viewing the parties’ submissions in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff-Appellant, Bryant has failed to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Iheanacho and Khan personally evaluated him. As evidence that the defendants never evaluated him, Bryant offers only his own inconsistent and largely uncorroborated statements." While an uncorroborated affidavit may in certain circumstances be enough to deny summary judgment (see Danzer v. Norden Systems, Inc., 151 F.3d 50 (2d Cir. 1998)), this is not that case. The Court of Appeals explains this falls with in the "extraordinary" exception in Jeffries:
Although Bryant at certain points denied being evaluated by Iheanacho and Khan, he admitted “that Dr. Iheanacho, when evaluating the plaintiff, concluded that [Bryant] had thoughts that were not based in reality.” In addition, Bryant’s expert witness testified at his deposition that, based on his review of themedical records and deposition testimony, he believed Bryant was seen by both Iheanacho and Khan. Further, Bryant’s alternative chronology purports to involve multiple other individuals, none of whom present any testimony or affidavits to corroborate Bryant’s story. The Defendants-Appellees’ affidavits, by contrast, are supported by detailed hospital records that record Iheanacho and Khan’s impressions of Bryant at the time of his two evaluations, including the assessment that Bryant appeared disheveled and perplexed at the time of his initial evaluation, that his speech was illogical, and that he was in need of immediate hospitalization.
You can see the Court of Appeals weighing the evidence here. But the Court takes the view that no reasonable jury can rule in plaintiff's favor, despite the slight factual dispute. The Bryant principle that I outlined above was not in place when I began practicing law in 1993, but I am seeing the Court of Appeals apply it maybe once or twice per year against the plaintiff.