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Curry v. Caldwell

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 12, 2015

ELVIN K. CURRY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DR. CALDWELL, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

DONALD G. WILKERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson by United States District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and SDIL-LR 72.1(a) for a Report and Recommendation on the question of whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Caldwell (Doc. 30) be GRANTED, and that the Court adopt the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Plaintiff Elvin K. Curry, Jr., a former inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") filed this suit alleging Defendant Dr. Caldwell was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs while he was incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"). More specifically, after an initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed with an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Curry for allegedly failing to adequately treat Plaintiff's knee injury, knee tumor, osteoarthritis, and related pain ( id. ).

On March 27, 2015, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit (Doc. 30). Based upon grievances and correspondence subpoenaed from Vandalia and the IDOC's Administrative Review Board ("ARB"), Defendant argues that although Plaintiff submitted two grievances related to treatment for his knee condition, neither grievance was properly submitted to the ARB.

The first grievance relevant to Plaintiff's pending claim is dated February 19, 2014 (Plaintiff's Grievances, Doc. 31-3, pp. 2-3). In this grievance, Plaintiff writes he was denied medical treatment by "Jessica" for his swollen and painful knee and was advised to put in a request for sick call ( Id. ). Plaintiff sought emergency review of the grievance from the Chief Administrative Officer ("CAO" - usually the Warden) ( id. ). On February 28, 2014, the CAO determined that an emergency was not substantiated and directed Plaintiff to submit the grievance in the normal manner ( id. ). There is no indication that the CAO's determination was appealed to the ARB. However, the grievance was received by Plaintiff's counselor on March 3, 2014, and the counselor provided a response on the same date, denying Plaintiff's request for relief and advising him to put in for sick call ( id. ). Although Plaintiff could have requested a review of the counselor's decision by the Grievance Officer, there is no indication that Plaintiff submitted it for such a review.

The second grievance relevant to Plaintiff's pending claim is dated May 27, 2014. In this grievance, Plaintiff complains of extreme pain in his knee and asks that Defendant Caldwell give him a low bunk and crutches (Doc. 31-3, pp. 5-6; Doc. 31-4, pp. 4-5). The grievance was received by Plaintiff's counselor on May 29, 2014, and the counselor provided a response on the same date ( id. ). The ARB received the grievance on June 6, 2014 (Doc. 31-3, p. 4; Doc. 31-4, p. 3). On August 11, 2014, the ARB responded to Plaintiff's grievance, indicating that he must provide a copy of the Grievance Officer's and CAO's response in order for it to consider his appeal ( id. ). The ARB never received any additional documentation related to this grievance.

In conjunction with the filing of his Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant filed a Rule 56 Notice informing Plaintiff of the perils of failing to respond within the proper time frame of thirty days (Doc. 32). Defendant's Notice also informed Plaintiff that his failure to file a response by the deadline may, in the Court's discretion, be considered an admission of the merits of the motion ( id. ). Plaintiff has not responded to Defendant's motion.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated summary judgment "is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events." Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted)).

Exhaustion Requirements under the PLRA

The Prison Litigation Reform Act provides:
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 ...

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