United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.
Plaintiff Julius Price, an inmate in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Price claims that Defendant Natasha Mosley, a correctional officer at the jail, violated Price's constitutional rights by using unjustified force against him and then denying him needed medical care for his injuries. Now before the Court is Mosley's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (Dkt. 24.) For the following reasons, the motion is granted.
"After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), "the complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face." Vinson v. Vermilion Cnty, Ill., 776 F.3d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 2015); Lodholtz v. York Risk Servs. Grp., Inc., 778 F.3d 635, 639 (7th Cir. 2015). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Lodholtz, 778 F.3d at 639 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
When considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a district court employs the same standard that is applicable to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), accepting as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Lodholtz, 778 F.3d at 639; Scherr v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 703 F.3d 1069, 1073 (7th Cir. 2013); Hayes v. City of Chicago, 670 F.3d 810, 813 (7th Cir. 2012). In so doing, the district court "must consider not only the complaint itself, ' but also documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice.'" Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1019-20 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012)) (discussing review of motions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)) (citations omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
Plaintiff Julius Price is a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Defendant Mosley is a Cook County corrections officer. Price's complaint alleges that on August 19, 2012, he received a regular dinnertime meal instead of his prescribed diet tray. Price further alleges that Mosley refused to rectify this problem; Price therefore demanded to speak to a supervisor; and Mosley ignored Price and locked him in his cell. According to Price's complaint, later that evening, Price again insisted on speaking to a "white shirt, " and Mosley eventually became angry and slammed the steel door of Price's cell shut on Price's arm. The complaint further alleges that Price requested medical attention, but Mosley denied Price access to treatment and instead called Price derogatory names. The next day, a sergeant allegedly noticed that Price's arm was swollen; and after Price told the sergeant what had happened, the sergeant escorted Price to Cermak Hospital.
Price filed a grievance within the next few days. (Complaint Ex. A (Inmate Grievance Form), Dkt. 1 at 13.) The first page of Price's grievance form is entitled "Inmate Grievance Form" (Complaint Ex. A, Dkt. 1 at 13); the second page is entitled "Inmate Grievance Response/Appeal Form." ( Id. at 14.) The bottom half of the Response page has a section labeled "Inmate's Request for an Appeal, " which conveys the following bullet-pointed admonition: "To exhaust administrative remedies, appeals must be made within 14 days of the date the inmate received the response." ( Id. ) On September 1, 2012, in response to Price's grievance, the grievance officer stated: "In summary, Ofc. Mosley stated that she did not in any manner conduct herself in an unprofessional way." ( Id. at 14.) The superintendent signed off on this response to Price's grievance on September 2, 2012, and Price signed his acknowledgment of this response on September 9, 2012. ( Id. )
About eight months later, in May 2013, Price filed another grievance concerning the events of August 2012. (Complaint Ex. C ("Inmate Grievance Form" page 1), Dkt. 1 at 15.) In this second grievance, Price stated that he had been previously unaware of his right to appeal and that he "would like to exhaust [his] administrative remedies concerning this matter." (Exhibit D (Inmate Grievance Form" page 2), Dkt. 1 at 16.) A superintendent (or his or her designee) denied this grievance on May 30, 2013, stating: "Any Grievance Appeal must be filed within 14 days of receiving a response. A control number was previously given." (Complaint Ex. E (Inmate Grievance Response/Appeal Form), Dkt. 1 at 17.)
Some eight months later, in December 2013, Price reiterated that he wished to appeal the denial of his grievance, asserting that the previous grievance officer had failed to advise him of his appeal rights. (Complaint Ex. F ("Inmate Grievance"), Dkt. 1 at 18.) Correctional officials likewise rejected this second attempted appeal. (Complaint Ex. G ("Inmate Grievance Response/Appeal Form"), Dkt. 1 at 19.) In denying this grievance, the Inmate Services Administrator wrote as follows: "Detainee advised that in order to appeal a grievance, it must be done within 14 days of the date the inmate received the response.... Request denied-Inmate (ALL inmates) are provided courtesy notification when he/she signs receipt of each response-this notification is an addition to handbook." ( Id. )
Price admits that he did not appeal the September 2, 2012 decision relating to his grievance, but argues that he never received an inmate handbook when he arrived at the jail, and that the counselor who provided him with the response to his grievance failed to advise him of his right to appeal, and perhaps even misinformed him about the opportunity to appeal. ( See Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion, Dkt. 33, at 1-2.) Price alleges that he has lingering disability stemming from Mosley's alleged use of force and the purported delay in receiving medical treatment. According to Price's complaint, he has limited mobility and continues to have pain in the injured arm, for which he still takes pain medication.
For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Price failed to exhaust properly his administrative remedies before bringing suit. Accordingly, the Court cannot consider Price's claims on the merits and therefore grants Mosley's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
To allow corrections officials to address complaints internally, prisoners must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions... by a prisoner... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 720 (7th Cir. 2011). This exhaustion requirement "applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter, 534 U.S. at 532. ...