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Phelps v. Martin

January 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Plaintiff Christopher T. Phelps, currently an inmate at the Williamson County Jail, brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that while he was incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center, Defendants Correctional Lieutenant Phillip Martin and Correctional Sergeant Harold Pinkston were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by denying him a low bunk and a cell on a low gallery. Because he was unable to negotiate the stairs, he missed lunch and dinner for seven days. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment [19] arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this action. Plaintiff has responded to the motion. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Facts

Plaintiff injured his knee while at Stateville. He saw a doctor on January 9, 2008, who issued permits for crutches, a low bunk, and a low gallery housing assignment. Cmplt. ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff showed Defendant Martin the medical orders and expressed fear for his safety and doubt that he could climb four flights of stairs. Id. ¶ 4. However, Martin refused to change Plaintiff's cell assignment to comply with the medical permits. Id.

Martin threatened to write Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket and to place him in segregation if he did not go to his assigned cell. Id. ¶ 7. Martin also handcuffed Plaintiff to his crutches. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff pleaded with Martin not to place him in segregation, and Martin told him that if he went to the cell and slept on the floor for one more night, he would leave a note for the day shift to make the cell change. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff then went to his assigned cell. Id. ¶ 11.

The next day, Plaintiff asked an inmate worker and gallery officer to ask Defendant Pinkston about the cell change. Id. ¶ 12. Both informed Plaintiff that Pinkston would not make the change. Id. ¶ 13. Two inmates assisted Plaintiff down the stairs during the chow hall lunch line, but Plaintiff was too exhausted to continue to the chow hall. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff asked Pinkston about the doctor' s orders; however, Pinkston refused to change Plaintiff's cell. Id. ¶ 16. Later, Plaintiff fell down the stairs and incurred further injuries. Id. ¶ 17. He was taken to the Health Care Unit and released on January 11, 2008. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Defendants still refused to move Plaintiff to another cell. Id. ¶ 21. Because he could not get up and down the stairs, Plaintiff went without lunch and dinner for seven days. Id. ¶ 22.

On January 18, 2008, the doctor extended Plaintiff's medical permits. Id. ¶ 23. Martin escorted Plaintiff from the doctor' s appointment and informed Pinkston to move Plaintiff to another cell. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff's was then moved to a cell consistent with the medical permits. Id. ¶ 25.

On January 23, 2008, Plaintiff filed a grievance in regard to Defendants'failure to comply with the medical permits. Def.' s Exh. B; Pl.' s Exh. A. On March 10, 2008, the Grievance Officer received, reviewed, and denied Plaintiff's grievance. Df' s Exh. C; Pl's Exh. B. On March 14, 2008, the Chief Administrative Officer concurred, and on March 20, 2008, Plaintiff indicated that he planned to appeal that decision. Id.

On March 20, 2008, Plaintiff sent a letter to his mother, asking her to make copies of the grievance and other documents and send the original to the Administrative Review Board (ARB). Pl.' s Exh. C. On April 14, 2008, Plaintiff' s mother mailed those documents to the ARB. Pl.' s Exh. D. Plaintiff also asked his counselor for a copy of his grievance, which was given to him on April 7, 2008. Pl.' s Exh. E, referencing his motion to present evidence, filed May 25, 2009.*fn1 Plaintiff states that on April 8, 2008 he placed his grievance in an envelope addressed to the ARB and placed it in the bars of his cell. Pl.'s Exh. F. On July 14, 2008, October 1, 2008, and December 12, 2008, Plaintiff wrote letters to the ARB inquiring about the status of his appeal. Pl.' s Exhs. G, H, and J. On April 27, 2009, Plaintiff sent a complaint to the Governor' s

Office regarding unanswered grievances. Pl.'s Exh. L. On May 13, 2009, the ARB wrote Plaintiff stating that the Governor' s Office had forwarded his complaint to them, that their records indicated that the ARB had never received the grievance, and that the issue would not be addressed further because the time frame for review had passed. Pl.' s Exh. M.

On May 5, 2009, Plaintiff requested that the ARB respond to his grievance. Pl.'s Exh. N. On May 28, 2009, the ARB replied that the grievance had not been submitted in the proper timeframe and that there was no record of a prior grievance from Plaintiff. Def.'s Exh. D; Pl.' s Exh. Q. Defendants have also proffered the affidavit of Sherry Benton, an ARB chairperson, who stated that, at the request of the Attorney General's Office, she searched the ARB records regarding Plaintiff and found that Plaintiff did not file or appeal a grievance in accordance with departmental rule 504 regarding medical treatment, staff misconduct, or the denial of food while at Stateville Correctional Center in 2008. Def's Exh. A.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Lewis v. Holsum of Ft. Wayne, Inc., 278 F.3d 706, 709 (7th Cir. 2002) ("If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because 'a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the [non-movant' s] case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'" (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). In order to present a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 ...

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