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Burt v. Berner

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 14, 2015

RONALD BURT, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA BERNER, RICK HARRINGTON, DANIEL DUNN, FE FUENTES, SAM NWAOBASI, ANGELA CRAIN, VICKI PAYNE, LATANYA WILLIAMS, JANE DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, and JOHN DOE 10, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Amended Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson (Doc. 99), recommending that the motions for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion filed by Defendants Joshua Berner, Angela Crain, Daniel Dunn, Richard Harrington, Vicki Payne, Samuel Nwaobasi, Fe Fuentes, and Latanya Williams (Docs. 67, 68) be granted in part and denied in part. The Amended Report and Recommendation was entered on February 25, 2015, and Plaintiff Ronald Burt filed a timely objection (Doc. 100).

Because a timely objection was filed, the undersigned must undertake a de novo review of the Report and Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SDIL-LR 73.1(b); Harper v. City of Chicago Heights, 824 F.Supp. 786, 788 (N.D. Ill. 1993); see also Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). De novo review requires the district judge to "give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objections have been made" and make a decision "based on an independent review of the evidence and arguments without giving any presumptive weight to the magistrate judge's conclusion." Harper, 824 F.Supp. at 788 (citing 12 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3076.8, at p. 55 (1st ed. 1973) (1992 Pocket Part)); Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 661 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court "may accept, reject or modify the magistrate judge's recommended decision." Harper, 824 F.Supp. at 788.

For the reasons stated below, the Court overrules Burt's objections and adopts the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Wilkerson.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Ronald Burt, is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He suffers degeneration of his cervical spine as a result of an unspecified injury, which causes severe and chronic neck and back pain (Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 80-1). Burt filed this action on August 5, 2013, alleging Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his neck and back issues and engaged in a civil conspiracy to deny him adequate medical treatment (Doc. 1; Doc. 13).

In his complaint, Burt alleges that he was denied adequate medical care on various occasions from mid-2011 through August 2013 at both Stateville Correctional Center and Menard Correctional Center (Doc. 1; Doc. 80, p. 2; Doc. 80-1; see Doc. 80-3). It appears from the record that Burt was incarcerated at Stateville from February 2011 to April 2012, at which time he was transferred to Menard, where he remained for most of 2012 and 2013.[1] Two of the remaining Defendants are employees at Stateville: Latanya Williams is a physicians' assistant, and John Doe #10 was the Medical Director/Doctor at Stateville between February 2011 and April 2012 (Doc. 1, pp. 2, 5). The other nine Defendants are employees at Menard. Richard Harrington is the warden. Samuel Nwaobasi and Fe Fuentes are physicians. Angela Crain is a nurse. Vicki Payne is a correctional counselor. Joshua Berner and Daniel Dunn are correctional officers. Jane Doe #1 is the intake nurse who examined Burt in April 2012 when he was transferred to Menard (Doc. 1, pp. 2, 5).[2] And John Doe #2 was the Medical Director/Doctor at Menard during October and November 2012 (Doc. 1, pp. 2, 6).

In April 2014, Defendants, with the exception of the Jane and John Does, filed motions for summary judgment arguing that Burt failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit (Docs. 67, 68). As required by Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008), Magistrate Judge Wilkerson held an evidentiary hearing on the issue of exhaustion on June 27, 2014 (Doc. 90). At the hearing, Burt's attorney stipulated to the dismissal of Dr. Fe Fuentes and Latanya Williams (Doc. 92, p. 76-77).

Following the hearing, Magistrate Judge Wilkerson issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 96). Five days later, he issued the Amended Report and Recommendation currently before the Court (Doc. 99). Magistrate Judge Wilkerson found, and the parties agreed, that there were two grievances relevant to Burt's surviving claims: one dated August 23, 2010, and another dated October 23, 2012 (Doc. 99, p. 3). In short, Magistrate Judge Wilkerson concluded that the August 23rd grievance was insufficient to exhaust Burt's deliberate indifference claim as to any of the named Defendants, and the October 23rd grievance was sufficient to exhaust only Burt's deliberate indifference claim as to Defendants Samuel Nwaobasi and Jane Doe #1 (Id. at pp. 14-15, 16). He further concluded that neither grievance was sufficient to exhaust the conspiracy claim (Id. at pp. 14, 15).

Burt objects to the conclusion that the August 23rd grievance was insufficient to cover any of the named Defendants, and he argues that Magistrate Judge Wilkerson misapplied the law regarding exhaustion and the continuing violation doctrine (Doc. 100, p. 8). Burt also objects to the conclusion that the October 23rd grievance was sufficient to cover only two of the named Defendants (Id. at p. 11). Finally, Burt objects to the conclusion that neither grievance was sufficient to exhaust his conspiracy claim (Id. at pp. 3, 4, 15-16).

Below, the Court discusses with more depth the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and Burt's objections as they pertain to each grievance.

DISCUSSION

A. August 23, 2010 Grievance

This grievance was submitted while Burt was incarcerated at Menard. It generally complains of excessive lockdowns in the previous months and how these lockdowns affected prison life and living conditions (Doc. 80-3). In the last few sentences of the grievance, Burt also complained that he was not receiving his pain medication or the movement required for his health conditions as a result of the lockdowns (Id. ). It is undisputed ...


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