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Owens v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 13, 2017

JAMES OWENS, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

         I. Introduction

         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff James Owens brought the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”) alleges that various defendants at Lawrence were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 39) filed by Defendants Dunlop, Schoon, Duncan, and Strubhart (“IDOC Defendants”). In their motion, the IDOC Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. A previous summary judgment motion based upon failure to exhaust filed by Defendant Litherland, (Doc. 23), was denied. (Doc. 54). As to the IDOC Defendants' motion, Plaintiff filed a response, and the matter is ripe for disposition. As more fully articulated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust as to Defendant Dunlop but exhausted as to the remaining IDOC Defendants. Therefore, the IDOC Defendants' Motion (Doc. 39) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit against, among other individuals, the IDOC Defendants. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's has pain in his jaw due to bone shards that were protruding from his gums. (Doc. 6, p. 3). Early on, Dr. Litherland treated Plaintiff's bone shards, but two months later in the beginning of June 2015, Plaintiff discovered another shard in his gums. Id. Plaintiff placed a sick call request for pain medication for the second bone shard, but he was informed over the PA system that his sick call was canceled. (Doc. 1, p. 4-5). Plaintiff informed Defendant Dunlop, a correctional officer, that it was recommended by healthcare personnel that Plaintiff obtain medication via sick call, but Defendant Dunlop refused to contact the healthcare unit or to otherwise help Plaintiff. (Doc. 6, p. 4).

         On June 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance complaining, among other things, about his lack of treatment and pain medication for the bone shard, the cancellation of his sick call pass, and Defendant Dunlop's failure to assist him. (See Doc. 44, p. 7). The grievance was received by Defendant Schoon, Plaintiff's counselor, on June 17, 2015, and Schoon issued a response on June 23. Id. The response denied the grievance, and Plaintiff appealed to the grievance office. Id. at 7, 8. The grievance office received the grievance on July 2, 2015, and Defendant Strubhart, the grievance officer, issued a response on August 24, 2015, concurring with Defendant Schoon. Id. at 8. The warden, who received the grievance on August 27, 2015, also concurred with the denial on the same day. Id.Plaintiff signed and dated his appeal of the grievance to the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) on September 4, 2015, and the ARB received it on September 10, 2015. Id. at 8, 9. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on October 15, 2015 (Doc. 1). On February 10, 2016, the ARB denied his appeal. (Doc. 44, p. 9).

         Defendant filed another grievance on August 21, 2015 (“August Grievance 1”). Id. at 10. Plaintiff grieved various issues relating to his bone shards in this grievance, including, again, not receiving pain medication. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff begins this grievance by stating:

On 6-1-15 I had a bone spur come through my lower right gum at tooth socket # [illegible]….[O]n 6-2-15 I put in a request for dental care. On 6-4-15 I requested Sick Call for pain meds for the protruding bone spur. On 6-6-15 I put in another request for dental care. On 6-8-15 I put in another request for Sick Call for interim pain meds. On 6-10-15 I was seen at dental and the bone spur was removed but I was given no pain meds for the pain.

Id. Plaintiff goes on to complain about not receiving pain medication, and complains about “the dentist” and the dentist's actions at a visit. Id. at 10-11. No IDOC Defendants are specifically named in the grievance narrative. It is unnecessary to recite the procedural steps Plaintiff took in regards to this grievance, as this Court has already ruled that Plaintiff properly exhausted his claims against Defendant Litherland with respect to this August 21, 2015 grievance. (See Doc. 54).

         There are six other grievances in the record before the Court, including four others dated August 21, 2015. (See Doc. 40-1, p. 15-26). Only one of the other grievances involves issues relating to Plaintiff's lawsuit (“August Grievance 2”). In that grievance, Plaintiff complains that his sick call passes had not been honored for eleven weeks, and he specifically mentions June incidents where his sick call passes were canceled. Id. at 19. Plaintiff does not mention any Defendants by name, and he does not discuss Defendant Dunlop's failure to contact the healthcare unit. Id. August Grievance 2 was submitted by Plaintiff on an emergency basis and was denied and determined to be a non-emergency by the warden on August 26, 2015. Id. August Grievance 1 and August Grievance 2 were appealed to the ARB. The ARB received the grievances on September 4, 2015, and denied them on September 14, 2015. Id. at 15.

         Plaintiff's alleges two counts against the IDOC Defendants. First, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Dunlop violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when he refused to seek assistance for Plaintiff after being informed that Plaintiff was instructed to obtain pain medication via sick call. (Doc. 6, p. 6). Second, he claims Defendants Schoon, Strubhart, and Duncan violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they failed to act on his grievances. Id.

         III. Legal Standards

         a. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment based upon failure to exhaust administrative remedies typically requires a hearing to determine any contested issues regarding exhaustion, and a judge may make limited findings of fact at that time. Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008). The case may proceed on the merits only after any contested issue of exhaustion is resolved. Pavey, 544 F.3d at 742. Generally, the Court's role on summary judgment is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge witness credibility, or to determine the truth of the matter. Instead, the Court is to determine whether a genuine issue of triable fact exists. Nat'l Athletic Sportwear Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). In Pavey, however, the Seventh Circuit held that ‚Äúdebatable factual issues relating to the defense of failure to ...

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