United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge.
before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by
Defendant Christine Brown (Doc. 57) and Defendants Vipin
Shah, Angel Rector and Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
(“Wexford”) (Doc. 48). Plaintiff filed responses
in opposition (Docs. 61 and 62). For the following reasons,
Defendant Brown's motion is DENIED. Defendants Shah,
Rector and Wexford's motion is DENIED as to Defendants
Shah and Wexford and GRANTED as to Defendant Rector.
a prisoner civil rights action in which Plaintiff Michael
Johnson asserts that his Eighth Amendment rights were
violated because he was provided with inadequate medical care
while at Pinckneyville Correctional Center
(“Pinckneyville”). Johnson filed suit on March
30, 2015 (Doc. 1). He alleges in his Complaint that the
Pinckneyville health care unit employees provided him with
improper medical treatment from about June, 2013 through
October, 2013 due to untreated digestive problems caused by
an “H. Pylori” infection.
Complaint was screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A on
May 4, 2015 (Doc. 6). The Court held that Johnson articulated
a colorable Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs claim against Defendants Vipin Shah
(Pinckneyville physician), Angel Rector (Pinckneyville nurse
practitioner) and Christine Brown (Pinckneyville Health Care
Unit Administrator). Johnson was later granted leave to file
an amended complaint (Doc. 23). In the Amended Complaint,
Johnson was allowed to add a Monell claim, see
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436
U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) and a breach
of contract claim against Wexford Health Sources, Inc.,
asserting his rights as a third party beneficiary of the
contract between Wexford and the State of Illinois.
defendants now seek summary judgment on the basis that
Johnson failed to exhaust administrative remedies before
filing suit. Inmates in corrections institutions are required
to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing
conditions of confinement lawsuits in federal court.
See Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. §
1997e et seq. 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.
is a prisoner in Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) custody and so he is required to use 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 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). The grievance process is deemed
completed when the ARB issues a decision.
Johnson submitted a grievance on August 7, 2013 using the
standard IDOC form. The form directs the prisoner to
“Provide information including a description of what
happened, when and where it happened, and the name or
identifying information for each person involved.” This
requirement is mirrored in the IDOC regulations at Ill.
Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.810(b). The regulation also
states, “This provision does not preclude an offender
from filing a grievance when the names of individuals are not
known, but the offender must include as much descriptive
information about the individual as possible.”
wrote on the grievance form: “Attention please: to all
medical staff of IDOC and non-medical staff of IDOC, I Mr.
Johnson give this notice that my health and safety is being
denied at the hands of the above mentioned” (Doc. 62-2,
p. 2). Johnson then stated that he was suffering from a
litany of health problems, including high blood pressure and
various gastrointestinal issues, which he asserted were
caused by the “soy diet” provided at the
institution. Id. He noted that he had made these
problems known to Pinckneyville staff members and that he
would like additional medical treatment (Doc. 62-2, p. 3).
Johnson also stated that he would like to be treated by
someone other than Dr. Shah. Id. Defendants
Christine Brown, Angel Rector and Wexford are not
specifically mentioned in the grievance.
counselor responded to the grievance shortly thereafter (Doc.
62-2, p. 2). The response provides a message from the
Pinckneyville Health Care Unit Administrator (HCUA Brown)
that essentially denies the grievance. Id. Johnson
then submitted the grievance to the Pinckneyville Grievance
Office and the Pinckneyville Warden denied the grievance on
September 30, 2013 (Doc. 49-2, p. 3). Johnson appealed the
decision to the ARB in October, 2013 (Doc. 62-2, p. 3). The
ARB denied the grievance on the merits on April 17, 2014.
Id. Documents attached to the defendants'
motions for summary judgment indicate that Johnson has filed
other prison grievances involving a multitude of concerns.
However, the August 7, 2013, grievance appears to be the only
one that directly addresses the issues in this lawsuit and
was properly exhausted through the ARB.
gist of the Defendants' motions for summary judgment is
that Johnson's August 7, 2013 grievance is not specific
enough to properly exhaust the administrative remedies. The
Court agrees that Johnson's grievance does not include
enough information to identify Angel Rector. Rector is not
mentioned in the grievance and Johnson's use of the
catchall “medical staff” by itself is
insufficient to put the IDOC on notice of specific wrongdoing
as to any individual defendant. Summary judgment is therefore
proper for Rector.
judgment will be denied as to the remaining Defendants.
Johnson states in the grievance that he is not receiving
proper medical treatment and that he wants to be treated by
someone other than Dr. Shah. The grievance therefore exhausts
the administrative remedies against Defendant Vipin Shah. As
for Health Care Unit Administrator Christine Brown, she is
not specifically mentioned in Johnson's grievance, but
she is mentioned in the counselor's response and the
Grievance Officer's response. A “better”
grievance would have mentioned her specifically, but her
involvement can easily be inferred. Accordingly, summary
judgment will be denied as to Defendant Brown as well.
issue as to Wexford is a bit more complicated. Johnson
asserts two claims against Wexford, a Monell claim
and a breach of contract claim. Wexford is a healthcare
contractor that provides medical services to IDOC inmates.
The IDOC regulations and grievance forms do not provide any
specific instructions as to how a prisoner should exhaust
administrative remedies against IDOC contractors.
Additionally, the two claims that Johnson asserts against
Wexford are both somewhat technical in nature. Requiring
inmates with no formal legal education to articulate the
subtleties of a Monell claim or a third party
beneficiary action on a grievance form is asking a lot. The
healthcare professionals at the facility all appear to be
Wexford employees and Johnson stated on his grievance form
that he was dissatisfied with the medical treatment he was
receiving at Pinckneyville. As the Supreme Court has
observed, “the primary purpose of a grievance is to
alert prison officials to a problem, not to provide personal
notice to a particular official that he may be sued; the
grievance is not a summons and complaint that initiates
adversarial litigation.” Jones v. Bock, 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
Cir. 2004)). Johnson's grievance could have been more
specific, but he sufficiently articulated how he was not
receiving proper medical treatment. The Court therefore finds
that he properly exhausted his administrative remedies
against Defendant Wexford.
foregoing reasons, Defendant Christine Brown's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 57) is DENIED. The Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 48) is GRANTED as to Defendant Angel Rector
and DENIED ...