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Bryant v. Nwaobasi

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 12, 2014

EDWARD BRYANT, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. SAMUEL NWAOBASI, DR. FE FUENTES, DR. JOHN SHEPHERD, and DR. ROBERT SHEARING, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

I. Procedural Overview

Edward Bryant, an inmate at Menard Correctional Center, filed the above-captioned suit alleging that four physicians at Menard violated his right, secured by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The complaint alleged that Drs. Nwaobasi, Fuentes, Shepherd, and Shearing (collectively, Defendants) were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical condition - an allergy to oatmeal, which Plaintiff was diagnosed with before his November 2011 arrival at Menard. More specifically, Plaintiff alleged that if he eats oatmeal he will go into anaphylactic shock, that Defendants have refused to document and treat this allergy, that they have refused to give him a special food permit, that he continues to receive food trays containing oatmeal, and that he can eat nothing on the entire tray and thus fails to receive meals satisfying nutritional requirements.

The complaint survived threshold review under 28 U.S.C. 1915A in May 2013, Defendants were served, and in July 2013 Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams entered a trial practice schedule herein. The case comes now before the Court on Defendants' September 26, 2013 motion for summary judgment based on exhaustion, which was fully briefed (Plaintiff filed two responses to the motion) and on which Judge Williams conducted an evidentiary hearing on December 17, 2013.

On December 19, 2013, Judge Williams submitted a Report and Recommendation (Report) recommending that the undersigned District Judge grant Defendants' motion and dismiss without prejudice all of Plaintiffs' claims for deliberate indifference (Doc. 44, p. 9). Plaintiff timely filed 26-page objections to the Report (Doc. 45). Defendants failed to respond to the Objections by the January 23, 2014 deadline to do so (see Doc. 48), and the issue is ripe for determination.

Timely objections having been filed, the District Judge undertakes de novo review of the portions of the Report to which Plaintiff Bryant specifically objected. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DIST. OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b). The undersigned can accept, reject, or modify the recommendations made by Judge Williams, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to Judge Williams with instructions. Id.

For the reasons stated below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections, adopts Judge Williams' Report in its entirety, and dismisses Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants. The Court's analysis begins with reference to the applicable legal standards.

II. Applicable Legal Standards

A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgment. Summary judgment should be granted if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir. 2012), citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact remains "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Serednyj v. Beverly Healthcare, LLC, 656 F.3d 540, 547 (7th Cir. 2011), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of, the non-moving party. Anderson, 699 F.3d at 994; Righi v. SMC Corp. , 632 F.3d 404, 408 (7th Cir. 2011); Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011).

B. PLRA'S EXHAUSTION REQUIREMENT

Lawsuits filed by inmates are governed by the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). That statute states that "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." Id.

Thus, under the PLRA, exhaustion of administrative remedies is mandatory, and unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). The case may proceed on the merits only after any contested issue of exhaustion is resolved by the district court. Pavey v. Conley , 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008).

The purpose of exhaustion is to give prison officials an opportunity to address the inmate's claims internally, prior to federal litigation. Kaba v. Stepp , 458 F.3d 678, 684 (7th Cir. 2006). The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit takes a strict compliance approach to exhaustion, requiring inmates follow all grievance rules established by the correctional authority. Dole v. Chandler , 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). A prisoner must "file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's rules require." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 949 (2002).

An inmate is required to exhaust only those administrative remedies that are available to him. 42 U.S.C. ยง 1997e(a). The Seventh Circuit has held that administrative remedies become "unavailable" when prison officials fail to respond to inmate grievances. Lewis v. Washington , 300 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2002). However, if the prisoner fails to follow the proper procedure, the ...


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