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Barney v. Larson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 2, 2014

PAUL BARNEY, Plaintiffs,


STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Before the Court is Defendant Larson's Motion for Summary Judgment for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (Docs. 31 and 32). Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. 36) in opposition to the motion. Defendant has filed a Reply (Doc. 37). Plaintiff has filed an Addendum (Doc. 38) to his responsive brief. Based on the following, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Docs. 31 and 32).

II. Findings of Fact

On June 11, 2013, Plaintiff brought a two count Complaint against Dr. Dennis Larson for deliberate indifference and unwanted touching (Doc. 1). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a sciatic nerve condition for which he has previously been provided Naproxen for relief, but since being incarcerated Larson has refused to provide Plaintiff with a prescription for Naproxen (Doc. 8). Plaintiff also alleges that on April 9, 2013, Plaintiff saw Larson for his condition and Larson had Plaintiff drop his pants and rubbed Plaintiff's thighs up to his private parts in an inappropriate manner ( Id. ).

On October 23, 2013, Defendant Larson filed a motion for summary judgment based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies (Docs. 31 & 32). The records indicate that Plaintiff submitted a grievance to his counselor regarding his sciatic nerve which was returned to him on March 11, 2013 (Doc. 32 Ex. 1 at p. 7). Plaintiff also submitted another grievance to his counselor on March 18, 2013 regarding his Naproxen prescription ( Id. ). That grievance was returned to him on March 25, 2013 with a response from the Health Care Unit indicating that the grievance was a duplicate of a previous grievance ( Id. ). An affidavit from the custodian of the grievance records indicated that there were no grievances on file at Big Muddy River Correctional Center from Plaintiff (Doc. 32 Ex. 2 at p. 2). Further, the ARB records found no grievances regarding Plaintiff's sciatic nerve or inappropriate touching from Larson (Doc. 32 Ex. 3 at p. 2).

In Plaintiff's response, Plaintiff stated that he filed an emergency grievance on February 19, 2013. He also stated that he submitted a request slip with the warden on February 22, 2013 regarding his failure to receive Naproxen for his sciatic pain (Doc. 36-2). Plaintiff then stated that his emergency grievance, which was reviewed by the Health Care Unit and submitted to his counselor, was returned to him on March 11, 2013. Plaintiff argues that he filed an "appeal of the counselor's response" along with the original grievance with the grievance officer on March 12, 2013 but that the grievance officer never processed the grievance and instead it ended up in the possession of the counselor on March 18, 2013. Plaintiff argues that the counselor's actions in not submitting the grievance to the grievance officer thwarted his attempts at exhausting his grievance. Plaintiff states that he finally saw Dr. Larson on April 9, 2013. Plaintiff has filed an addendum to his response, indicating that he has recently had trouble obtaining a sick call pass to see Dr. Larson and filed a grievance on the matter on January 5, 2014 (Doc. 38).

III. Conclusions of Law

Summary Judgment is proper if the pleadings, discovery materials, disclosures, and affidavits demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact such that [Defendants are] entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Wragg v. Village of Thornton , 604 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 2010). 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, in pertinent part, 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 . (emphasis added). The Seventh Circuit requires strict adherence to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. Dole v. Chandler , 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that [t]his circuit has taken a strict compliance approach to exhaustion"). Exhaustion must occur before the suit is filed. Ford v. Johnson , 362 F.3d 395, 398 (7th Cir. 2004). Plaintiff cannot file suit and then exhaust his administrative remedies while the suit is pending. Id. Moreover, "[t]o exhaust remedies, a prisoner must file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison administrative rules require." Pozo v. McCaughtry , 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2005). Consequently, if a prisoner fails to properly utilize a prison's grievance process, "the prison administrative authority can refuse to hear the case, and the prisoner's claim can be indefinitely unexhausted." Dole , 438 F.3d at 809.

Under Pavey, the Seventh Circuit held that "debatable factual issues relating to the defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies" are not required to be decided by a jury but are to be determined by the judge. Pavey v. Conley , 544 F.3d 739, 740-41(7th Cir. 2008). Thus, where failure to exhaust administrative remedies is raised as an affirmative defense, the Court set forth the following recommendations:

The sequence to be followed in a case in which exhaustion is contested is therefore as follows: (1) The district judge conducts a hearing on exhaustion and permits whatever discovery relating to exhaustion he deems appropriate. (2) If the judge determines that the prisoner did not exhaust his administrative remedies, the judge will then determine whether (a) the plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and so he must go back and exhaust; (b) or, although he has no unexhausted administrative remedies, the failure to exhaust was innocent (as where prison officials prevent a prisoner from exhausting his remedies), and so he must be given another chance to exhaust (provided that there exist remedies that he will be permitted by the prison authorities to exhaust, so that he's not just being given a runaround); or (c) the failure to exhaust was the prisoner's fault, in which event the case is over. (3)If and when the judge determines that the prisoner has properly exhausted his administrative remedies, the case will proceed to pretrial discovery, and if necessary a trial, on the merits; and if there is a jury trial, the jury will make all necessary findings of fact without being bound by (or even informed of) any of the findings made by the district judge in determining that the prisoner had exhausted his administrative remedies.

Id . at 742.

A. Exhaustion Requirements Under Illinois Law

As an inmate confined within the Illinois Department of Corrections, Plaintiff was required to follow the regulations contained in the Illinois Department of Correction's Grievance Procedures for Offenders ("grievance procedures") to properly exhaust his claims. 20 Ill. Administrative Code §504.800 et seq . The grievance procedures first require inmates to speak with the counselor about their complaint. 20 Ill. Admin. Code §504.810(a). Then, if the counselor does not resolve the issue, the ...

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