24 F.3d 918 (7th Cir. 1994), 92-3714, Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp.

Docket Nº:92-3714.
Citation:24 F.3d 918
Party Name:Sandra L. WALDRIDGE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. AMERICAN HOECHST CORP., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:May 16, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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24 F.3d 918 (7th Cir. 1994)

Sandra L. WALDRIDGE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

AMERICAN HOECHST CORP., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 92-3714.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 16, 1994

Argued Oct. 29, 1993.

Rehearing Denied July 7, 1994.

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Glenn J. Tabor, Blachly, Tabor, Boxik & Hartman, Valparaiso, IN (argued), Stephen L. Williams, Max Goodwin (argued), Mann, Chaney, Johnson, Goodwin & Williams, Terre Haute, IN, for plaintiff-appellant.

Ralph A. Cohen, Angela K. Wade, Jacqueline A. Simmons (argued), Ice, Miller, Donadio & Ryan, Mary K. Reeder (argued), Riley, Bennett & Egloff, Lee B. McTurnan, McTurnan & Turner, Donald G. Orzeske (argued), William M. Osborn, Osborn, Hiner & Lisher, Indianapolis, IN, for defendants-appellees.

Before RIPPLE, KANNE and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

ILANA DIAMOND ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

For two and a half years, Sandra Waldridge worked for Futurex Industries, a small Indiana plastics company. For the majority of her employment with Futurex, Ms. Waldridge was assigned to tasks that required her to handle plastic resins and colorants and exposed her on a daily basis to the dust and fumes from these materials. In the course of her work, Ms. Waldridge began to experience frequent headaches and nausea. By the fall of 1986, she was suffering from fatigue, soreness in her joints and muscles, and tingling in her extremities. Her symptoms worsened the following year: in January, a nerve in her face became inflamed;

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and in May, she suffered a permanent loss of visual acuity and color perception in her right eye and some peripheral vision in both eyes. In 1988, she temporarily lost the use of her right arm to increased pain and weakness, and her ophthalmologist became concerned that the vision in her right eye was worsening. On the advice of her physicians, Ms. Waldridge resigned from Futurex in June of 1988. With the exception of her eyesight, her physical condition has improved since that time, although she continues to experience a number of infirmities. An examination conducted in November 1988 revealed that Ms. Waldridge exhibited a mild neuropsychologic impairment in the left hemisphere of her brain.

Two years after leaving Futurex's employ, Ms. Waldridge filed suit against the companies that supplied plastics and colorants to Futurex, alleging that these products were the cause of her ailments. After substantial discovery took place, the defendants moved for summary judgment, contending that there was insufficient evidence of a causal link between their products and plaintiff's infirmities. 1 The district court granted the motion, holding that Ms. Waldridge had failed to identify the evidence supporting her claims in the manner required by Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 56.1 of the Local Rules for the Southern District of Indiana. Alternatively, the court found that the expert opinion on which Ms. Waldridge relied to establish causation did not meet the requirements of Rules 401 and 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Ms. Waldridge appeals, contending that the opinion of her medical expert satisfied the pertinent evidentiary rules and supplied enough evidence on the question of causation to defeat summary judgment. Because we agree with the district court, however, that her response in opposition to the defendants' motion did not comply with the explicit requirements of Local Rule 56.1, we affirm the entry of summary judgment against Ms. Waldridge on that basis without reaching the admissibility of the expert opinion that she proffered.

We begin our analysis with a few remarks about the nature of summary judgment. It is not, as parties opposing summary judgment are fond of pointing out, a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. 10 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary K. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil Sec. 2712, at 574 (2d ed. 1983). And because summary judgment is not a paper trial, the district court's role in deciding the motion is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. The court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); 10 Wright, Miller & Kane Sec. 2712, at 574-78. The parties, in turn, bear a concomitant burden to identify the evidence that will facilitate this assessment. Thus, as Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 56(e) makes clear, a party opposing summary judgment may not rely on the allegations of her pleadings. Rather:

[T]he adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party.

(Emphasis supplied). This requirement is more than a technicality; as the now familiar trilogy of 1986 cases from the Supreme Court established, if the non-movant does not come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in her favor on a material question, then the court must enter summary judgment against her. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-52, 106 S.Ct. at 2511-12. The burden on the non-movant is not onerous. 10A Wright, Miller & Kane

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Sec. 2727, at 148. She need not tender evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial; 2 she may rely on affidavits or any other materials of the kind identified in Rule 56(c). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. Moreover, the non-movant need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that her case is convincing, she need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49, 106 S.Ct. at 2510 (quoting First Nat. Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 1592, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968)); see also id. 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513; Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1041 (7th Cir.1993); Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir.1992); Cameron v. Frances Slocum Bank & Trust Co., 824 F.2d 570, 575 (7th Cir.1987).

Despite the rudimentary nature of their task, parties served with summary judgment motions often misconceive what is required of them. As the district court noted:

Although this goal seems straightforward, it often appears to daunt parties and their counsel. [M]any non-movants are satisfied to submit virtually all the discovery they have performed, cite to some spurious pre-1986 summary judgment language, remind the court that they are "entitled to all inferences" and that "jury trials are favored" and then let the court sort it all out. Not one of these things is even remotely helpful to resolving the issues succinctly framed by Rule 56.

R. 120 at 10. 3 We too have noted these types of recurrent shortcomings in summary judgment responses, which routinely lead to the entry of summary judgment and, inevitably, unsuccessful appeals therefrom. See, e.g., Hickey v. A.E. Staley Mfg., 995 F.2d 1385, 1391 (7th Cir.1993); United Ass'n of Black Landscapers v. City of Milwaukee, 916 F.2d 1261, 1264-65 (7th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 923, 111 S.Ct. 1317, 113 L.Ed.2d 250 (1991); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assocs., Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 112 (7th Cir.1990); Chicago Florsheim Shoe Store Co. v. Cluett, Peabody & Co., 826 F.2d 725, 728-29 (7th Cir.1987).

Local rules akin to the Southern District of Indiana's Rule 56.1 reflect an attempt to make the parties' respective summary judgment obligations explicit. See American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Williams, 839 F.Supp. 579, 581-82 (S.D.Ind.1993). With respect to the non-movant's burden, Rule 56.1 provides:

Any party opposing the motion [for summary judgment] shall ... serve and file any affidavits or other documentary material controverting the movant's position, together with an answer brief that shall include in its text or appendix...

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