United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Elaine Burcham's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 40). In his Complaint, Plaintiff
Isaias Castaneda alleges that Burcham and other prison
employees at Lawrence Correctional Center were deliberately
indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth
Amendment. Specifically, Castaneda asserts that he has been
provided inadequate treatment for a hernia and that he has
had severe allergic reactions to prescribed medication.
Burcham now seeks summary judgment on the basis that
Castaneda failed to exhaust administrative remedies before
filing suit. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.
following facts are gleaned from the Complaint and
Castaneda's response to Burcham's motion for summary
judgment (See Docs. 1 and 46). In March of 2013,
Castaneda received a prescription from the Lawrence Health
Care Unit for the antibiotic Bactrim. Castaneda began to
experience an allergic reaction to the medication and on May
6, 2013, was transported to an outside hospital for
treatment. He was initially taken to the Lawrence County
hospital, but due to the severity of his condition, he was
later transported to Carle Clinic in Champaign, Illinois and
then to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois on
May 10, 2013. Medical records note that Castaneda had a red
rash “from head to toe” and other assorted
medical problems including gastrointestinal bleeding (Doc.
46-1, p. 1). The medical examinations also revealed a small
hiatal hernia (Doc. 46-1, p. 3). He was discharged from the
hospital on May 22, 2013 after his condition stabilized and
his gallbladder was removed. Id.
maintains that his condition deteriorated because he has an
allergy to “sulfa” type medications such as
Bactrim. Additionally, Castaneda alleges that he continues to
suffer from medical problems related to his hernia and that
in January of 2014, he was prescribed Flomax, another sulfa
type medication. Medical records indicate that the
prescription was issued on January 13, 2014, but was
terminated on January 30, 2014 (Doc. 46-1, p. 13). Castaneda
then filed this lawsuit on December 28, 2015 (Doc. 1).
Prison Litigation Reform Act requires prisoners to exhaust
available administrative remedies before filing conditions of
confinement lawsuits in federal court 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.
The Seventh Circuit takes a “strict compliance”
approach to the exhaustion issue, requiring prisoners to
“file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the
time, the prison's administrative rules require.”
Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025
(7th Cir. 2002). The Supreme Court has recognized that proper
exhaustion puts prisons on notice of inmate concerns, allows
for the correction or mitigation of inmate problems that may
satisfy the inmate without resorting to litigation and
develops a factual record that may be useful if litigation
does arise. See, e.g., Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 525, 122 S.Ct. 983, 988, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002).
under some circumstances the administrative remedies process
may be “unavailable” to prisoners, so that the
lack of exhaustion will be excused. For example, the
administrative remedies process may be deemed unavailable if
“prison administrators thwart inmates from taking
advantage of a grievance process through machination,
misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Ross v.
Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1860, 195 L.Ed.2d 117 (2016). The
administrative remedies process may also be deemed
unavailable if prison officials fail to respond to properly
filed grievances. Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804,
811 (7th Cir. 2006).
prisoner within the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) prison system, Castaneda must utilize
the IDOC grievance process. IDOC regulations set forth a
three step grievance process for general prison grievances
(i.e., non-emergency grievances and grievances not subject to
direct ARB review pursuant to Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20,
§ 504.870). First, the prisoner must attempt to resolve
the issue informally with his counselor. Ill. Admin. Code
tit. 20, § 504.810(a). After receiving the
counselor's response, the prisoner may proceed to step
two by filing a written grievance with the institution's
grievance officer. Id. The grievance officer will
then “consider the grievance and report his or her
findings and recommendations in writing to the
[warden].” Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.830(d).
The warden will review the grievance officer's
recommendation and issue a decision in writing to the
prisoner. Id. If the prisoner is dissatisfied with
the warden's decision he may appeal the grievance to the
IDOC Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) in
Springfield. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.850(a).
This is the third and final step. The grievance process is
completed when the ARB issues a decision.
review of the grievances submitted, the Court finds that
Castaneda properly completed the IDOC grievance process. On
July 28, 2013, Castaneda submitted a grievance stating that
he is dissatisfied with the level of healthcare received at
Lawrence. He also described his trip to the outside hospitals
that occurred in May of that year and he mentioned that he is
having problems with his hernia (Doc. 41-1, pp. 13-14).
Castaneda's counselor received the grievance on September
3, 2013 and provided a response on January 1, 2014.
Id. The Lawrence grievance office received the
grievance on January 9, 2014 and the Lawrence Warden issued a
decision in late May of 2014 (Doc. 41-1, p. 12). Castaneda
submitted the grievance to the ARB on June 16, 2014 (Doc.
41-1, p. 11). The ARB then issued a final decision on
September 26, 2014. Id.
submitted another grievance pertaining to his medical care on
February 6, 2014, again complaining that he is not receiving
proper medical treatment in the Lawrence Healthcare Unit. He
also states that he was prescribed Flomax in January of 2014
and that the nurses in the Healthcare Unit told him he was
not allergic to the medication when in fact he was (Doc.
41-2, pp. 6-7). Castaneda submitted the grievance to his
counselor on February 27, 2014 and his counselor responded on
August 12, 2014. Id. On August 21, 2014, Castaneda
submitted the grievance to the Lawrence grievance office and
on December 23, 2014, the Lawrence Warden provided a response
(Doc. 41-2, p. 8). On January 7, 2015, the ARB received
Castaneda's appeal and the ARB issued a decision on
January 21, 2015, stating that “This office previously
addressed this issue on 9/26/14” (Doc. 41-1, p. 3).
Burcham does not dispute that Castaneda submitted these
grievances, but instead argues that the grievances do not
contain sufficient factual information against her
specifically. Burcham points to the fact that IDOC
regulations require inmate grievances to “contain
factual details regarding each aspect of the offender's
complaint, including what happened, when, where, and the name
of each person who is the subject of or who is otherwise
involved in the complaint.” Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20,
§ 504.810. However, the grievance forms used by
Castaneda only state that he is required to provide a
“brief summary” of the problem at issue. The
instructions on the grievance form do not mirror the
requirements set forth in the IDOC regulations. The Seventh
Circuit confronted this same issue in Maddox v.
Love, 655 F.3d 709, 721 (7th Cir. 2011) and held that
the prisoner plaintiff (coincidentally, also a former
Lawrence inmate) was not required to provide the level of
specificity demanded by the regulations because the grievance
form only required a “brief summary.”
Castaneda's grievances provide a brief summary of his
issues, specifically that he is dissatisfied with his medical
treatment at the Lawrence Health Care Unit. He discusses the
incidents that occurred in mid-2013 and the Flomax issue in
early 2014. Furthermore, Castaneda states that Lawrence
nurses typically do not wear name tags and that he has had a
difficult time identifying those who provided him medical
treatment. In sum, Castaneda provided prison
officials with a brief summary of his concerns and an
opportunity to address his complaint. That is all that was
required. As the Supreme Court recognized in Jones v.
Bock, “the [prison] grievance is not a summons and
complaint that initiates adversarial litigation.” 549
U.S. 199, 219, 127 S.Ct. 910, 923, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007)
(quoting Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 522 (5th
other issue warrants mentioning. The delays Castaneda
experienced in waiting to receive grievance responses calls
into question whether the IDOC administrative remedies
process at Lawrence may be deemed “available” at
all. It's understandable that Castaneda may have had some
questions or concerns after his two week hospitalization in
May of 2013 and, as a result, filed a prison grievance. After
Castaneda submitted the July 28, 2013 grievance to his
counselor, Castaneda waited four months to receive a response
and then waited another five months to receive a response
from the Lawrence grievance office. After submitting the
February 6, 2014 grievance because he ...