The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (hereinafter "R&R") (Doc. 33), wherein Magistrate Judge Philip M. Frazier recommends that the Court grant Defendant Terry Caliper's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17) and Defendants Dr. Claudia Kachigian and Cheryl Couch's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 21). Plaintiff Corey Taylor filed an Objection (Doc. 34) to said R&R, to which Defendants filed a collective Response (Doc. 35). Taylor also filed a Motion for Oral Argument (Doc. 36) on the issues discussed in the R&R.
For the following reasons, the Court, inter alia, ADOPTS the R&R (Doc. 33) as modified herein.
The Court first notes that, while not labeled as such, both motions to dismiss are made pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6) in alleging that Taylor failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. See, e.g., Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 545 (7th Cir. 2009) (acknowledging 12(b)(6) as the appropriate basis for motions to dismiss based upon plaintiff's failure to exhaust). The Court further notes that, while Magistrate Judge Frazier's R&R relies upon Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) for the applicable standard of review, Conley has since been abrogated by the more demanding Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).*fn1 As will be seen, however, application of either Conley or Twombly dictates the same end result.
Pursuant to Twombly, courts must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Tricontinental Indus. Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2007). Taking all of Taylor's factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, the Court finds as follows:
On May 18, 2008, Taylor attempted suicide as a result of deficient mental health treatment or a general lack thereof. Taylor was subsequently given medical treatment, placed on suicide watch for several days, and provided mental health treatment once again. The deficient treatment or deficiency thereof that caused Taylor to attempt to take his own life had been ongoing for some time prior to May 18. If the Court understands Taylor correctly, he had been denied treatment as early as September 16, 2007.*fn2 Taylor filed a grievance concerning this lack of treatment around September 16 that was ultimately denied by the Administrative Review Board presiding over appeals of such grievances. (See Doc. 1, p. 24).
On July 31, 2008, by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Taylor filed this action against Defendants and other who have since been dismissed for acting with deliberate indifference in denying him mental health treatment. (Doc. 34, p. 6) ("Plaintiff's claims are that Defendants denied him adequate mental health care [sic] for suicidal ideations [sic], depression and other issues and were thus deliberately indifferent to his serious medical/mental health needs continually from the end of 2007 [including the week of September 16] to the date of filing of the instant Complaint/motion . . . ."). On November 4, 2010, Magistrate Judge Frazier held a Pavey hearing, in which Taylor appeared via video conference from Tamms Correctional Center, to determine whether Taylor exhausted his administrative remedies. During the Pavey hearing, Taylor admitted that the only grievance for which he exhausted his administrative remedies was for the denial of treatment during the week of September 16. As chronicled in his R&R, Magistrate Judge Frazier ultimately found, inter alia, as follows: 1) Taylor failed to sufficiently allege that the denial of mental health treatment around September 16 directly led to his suicide attempt; 2) Taylor could not point to a specific date or period for which a lack of mental health treatment led to his suicide attempt; and, 3) Taylor undisputably failed to complete the formal grievance process for a lack of mental health treatment following September 16. These findings led Magistrate Judge Frazier to recommend to this Court that the instant motions be granted and that Taylor's case be dismissed.
After reviewing a report and recommendation, the Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge in the report. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). The Court must review de novo the portions of the report to which objections are made. The Court has discretion to conduct a new hearing and may consider the record before the magistrate judge anew or receive any further evidence deemed necessary. Id. "If no objection or only partial objection is made, the district court judge reviews those unobjected portions for clear error." Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999). Since Taylor objected to most, if not all, of Magistrate Judge Frazier's findings, the Court reviews the R&R de novo.
A prisoner may not file a § 1983 suit "until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006). Taylor objects to the three aforementioned findings of Magistrate Judge Frazier on the following two grounds: 1) Taylor exhausted his administrative remedies or permissibly circumvented exhaustion by writing directly to agents of the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"); and, 2) the denial of mental health treatment around September 16 and other unspecified denials directly caused Taylor's suicide attempt.
As for his first argument, Taylor heavily once again relies upon 730 ILCS 5/3-8-8(c) and documentation he received from employees of the Illinois Department of Correction (see Doc. 1, p. 17-18, 21-24). However, as Magistrate Judge Frazier explained in his R&R, 730 ILCS 5/3-8- 8(c) is an enabling statute, which states that "[established] procedures [concerning review of grievances of committed persons] shall allow committed persons to communicate grievances directly to the [IDOC] Director or some person designated by the Director outside of the institution or facility where the person is confined." 730 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/3-8-8(c) (West 2010) (emphasis added). The statute does just what it says: it requires that all established grievance procedures allow inmates to communicate grievances directly with the IDOC director or some person designated by him from outside the facility of confinement. It does not state that communications with the IDOC director or his designee can or will act as initiation, exhaustion, or circumvention of the grievance procedure. If anything, the statute makes clear that communications maintained thereunder are premised on the filing of a grievance.
Here, as admitted by Taylor at the Pavey hearing, the grievance concerning the week of September 16 represents the only formal grievance filed and exhausted. The nature of that grievance was very specific, namely Taylor complained that he was "to have had mental health treatment the entire week of September 16, 2007." (Doc. 1, p. 24). The other documentation which Taylor touts was sent to him in response to general correspondence, not formal grievances, that he maintained following exhaustion of the grievance regarding September 16. See, e.g., id. at p. 21 (letter sent by Deputy Director Danny Hartline to Taylor on April 2, 2008, opening with "[t]his is in response to your March 25, 2008 letter received in my office on March 27, 2008. . . .") The Court simply fails to see the connection between the very specific grievance concerning September 16, communications Taylor maintained with IDOC employees after its exhaustion, and 730 ILCS 5/3-8-8(c). If Taylor was continually denied mental health treatment, he should have continued to file formal grievances and seen them through to their conclusion. The Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Frazier's finding that Taylor did not complete the formal grievance process for any lack of mental health treatment other than the week of September 16.
Taylor's second argument is that denial of mental health treatment from September 16 up to his suicide attempt served as the proximate cause of the attempt on his own life. However, Taylor is limited in this argument as he only exhausted the grievance process regarding the week of September 16 for the reasons discussed supra; as such, denial of mental health treatment during that time must have been the direct cause of his suicide attempt if his § 1983 claim is to continue. Despite the fact that Twombly creates a favorable standard of review for plaintiffs, the Court cannot reasonably infer that the denial of treatment in September led to Taylor's suicide attempt eight months later. Moreover, the documentation which Taylor attached to his Complaint (Doc. 1) indicates that Taylor refused offered mental health treatment shortly before his suicide attempt. (See, e.g., Doc. 1, p 21) (letter sent by Deputy Director Danny Hartline to Taylor on April 2, 2008, stating "[u]pon learning of your thoughts of self-harm, a mental health professional was immediately sent to see you and ...