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Blakes v. Baker

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

January 22, 2015

MICHAEL BLAKES, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. THOMAS BAKER, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in Western Illinois Correctional Center, pursues claims for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The case is before the Court for ruling on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies. Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and therefore the burden of proof lies with the defendants. Turley v. Rednour , 729 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court must hold an evidentiary hearing if a disputed issue of material fact exists, see Pavey v. Conley , 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008), but where none is present, an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary and the issue of exhaustion may be decided as a matter of law. Doss v. Gilkey , 649 F.Supp.2d 905, 912 (S.D. Ill. 2009).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in that officials at Western Illinois Correctional Center failed to provide medical treatment for fractures sustained to both of his wrists. At the time of filing suit, Plaintiff had filed several grievances related to this issue, with each at various stages of the grievance process. Unless otherwise noted, the Court finds the following to be undisputed with respect to these grievances.

September 12, 2011 Grievance

Plaintiff filed a grievance dated September 12, 2011. (Doc. 1-1 at 22-23; Doc. 40-1). In this grievance, Plaintiff alleged he was denied medical treatment for pain resulting from a wrist injury suffered at another facility. On October 6, 2011, Plaintiff's counselor denied the grievance. Plaintiff appealed. The grievance office received Plaintiff's appeal on November 10, 2011, ultimately ruling against Plaintiff on February 8, 2012. (Doc. 40-6). During this process, and prior to the grievance officer's decision, Plaintiff submitted this grievance to the Administrative Review Board ("ARB") on two occasions: first, in September 2011, around the time he filed the original grievance (Doc. 40-3); and, in January 2012. (Doc. 1-1 at 4). With the January 2012 submission, Plaintiff included a letter stating that he had not heard back from the Chief Administrative Officer ("CAO"). (Doc. 1-1 at 7). Both times, the ARB denied the grievance stating that Plaintiff had not included the necessary copies of decisions from the counselor and CAO. (Doc. 40-4; Doc. 1-1 at 4). Plaintiff submitted the necessary decisions and grievance to the ARB in May 2013. (Doc. 1-1 at 20). Plaintiff's grievance was subsequently denied on the grounds that it was not timely filed. (Doc. 1-1 at 20; Doc. 40-7).

July 12, 2012 Grievance

Plaintiff filed a grievance on July 12, 2012, alleging that a shakedown at the prison caused pain in his shoulders and wrists, and that several requests to see a doctor had been denied. (Doc. 40-8). Though he checked the box indicating he was grieving "Staff Conduct, " Plaintiff indicated that the remedy he sought was "to see a doctor." Pursuant to the proper procedures, the grievance was ultimately denied by the ARB on September 17, 2013. (Doc. 40-10).

September 25, 2012 Grievance

Plaintiff filed a grievance on September 25, 2012, alleging that he had been refused access to a doctor concerning the pain in his wrists. (Doc. 40-11). Plaintiff's counselor denied the grievance on October 30, 2012. Plaintiff submits a Proof of Service stating he sent an appeal to the Grievance Office on November 14, 2012. (Doc. 49-1 at 15). Plaintiff sent a copy of the grievance to the ARB, which replied that Plaintiff had not included the prerequisite paperwork. (Doc. 40-12).

Other Grievances

Plaintiff also provided a copy of a grievance dated November 4, 2011, alleging an unidentified nurse refused to treat his wrist pain or allow him to see a doctor. (Doc. 49-1 at 4). Other than a proof of service document dated August 13, 2012 (Doc. 49-1 at 5), indicating that the grievance was sent to the ARB, the results of this grievance are unknown.

ANALYSIS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that prisoners exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The purpose of this requirement is to "alert the state to the problem and invite corrective action." Turley , 729 F.3d at 649 (internal citations omitted). The Seventh Circuit has adopted a strict compliance standard to exhaustion, and to exhaust remedies "a prisoner must properly use the prison's grievance process." Dole v. Chandler , 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). In other words, "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, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). If the prisoner fails to follow the grievance procedures, "the prison administrative authority can refuse to hear the case, and the prisoner's claim can be indefinitely unexhausted." Id .; see Dole , 438 F.3d at 809 (quoting same). A prisoner, however, may satisfy the requirements of § 1997e if administrative remedies become unavailable, such as when a prison official fails to respond to ...


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