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Pierre White v. Shawn Bass

March 31, 2011


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


Pro se Plaintiff Pierre White ("Plaintiff") is an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). He has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ¶ 1983 claiming that Defendant correctional officials ("Defendants") were deliberately indifferent to the known risk of assault of Plaintiff by his cellmate and failed to provide adequate medical attention to Plaintiff. Before the Court is Defendants' motion [18], which seeks summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust the administrative grievance remedies available to him, as required under PLRA § 1997e(a), because (1) he skipped one or more steps in the grievance-filing process and (2) he did not include sufficient detail in his administrative grievances to support the allegations in the underlying complaint in this case. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion [18].

I. Background

The Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' Local Rule ("L.R.") 56.1 statements [21, 35], as well as from the parties' briefing on the instant motion [19, 36, 37]. *fn1

On June 12, 2009, Plaintiff was placed in a Stateville segregation cell with inmate Willie White ("White") (presumably, no relation to Plaintiff). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were aware that White was dangerous and ignored Plaintiff's repeated requests to be placed in another cell. On June 14, 2009, White assaulted Plaintiff, injuring him. Plaintiff also contends that Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with medical care following the attack.

As discussed below, Plaintiff insists that he complained to his Stateville counselor about the incident, filed a grievance with the Stateville grievance officer, and appealed his grievance to the Administrative Review Board. Defendants dispute whether Plaintiff followed the proper course of action in filing and appealing his grievances, and argue that the Court should grant summary judgment against Plaintiff on the ground that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper where "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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. A mere showing that there is "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" is not enough. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). There must be more than a "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position" that a jury could reasonably find in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. When the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial," summary judgment is warranted. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that the non-moving party has not presented any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The Court must then "construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to a nonmoving party." Foley v. City of Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004).

III. Analysis

A. Whether Plaintiff Complied with the IDOC Grievance-Filing Procedure

The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined to any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (emphasis added); see also Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84-85 (2006); Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 808 (7th Cir. 2006). Thus, pursuant to the PLRA, a state prisoner filing a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must utilize the prison grievance system available to him. See Dole, 438 at 809. The PLRA's exhaustion requirement is intended to alert prison officials to any systemic, ongoing problems and provide them with an opportunity to take a corrective action to remedy the problem. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). "Exhaustion is 'an affirmative defense that the defendants have the burden of pleading and proving.'" Brengettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674, 682 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004)).

"[A] prisoner must file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002). The Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") provides a three-step grievance-filing procedure. See Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 2002); Dole, 438 F.3d at 807. The first procedural step is to complain informally to the prisoner's counselor. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.810(a); see also Dole, 438 F.3d at 807. Second, if taking this step does not resolve the issue, the prisoner "may file a written grievance on a grievance form * * * within 60 days * * *." Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20 § 504.810(a). The form must be addressed to the grievance officer. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20 § 504.810(b). The grievance officer must review the grievance and submit a recommendation to the warden, who then must make a final decision at the institutional level and inform the prisoner of that decision in writing within sixty days of receiving the grievance. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.830(d). Third and finally, a prisoner may appeal a warden's determination to the Director of IDOC. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, ...

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