United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States District Judge.
matter is now before the Court on a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) submitted by Magistrate Judge Stephen
C. Williams, recommending that this Court grant summary
judgment in favor of Defendants Shah, Spiller, and Wexford
Health Source, Inc. (“Wexford”) (Doc. 62). The
underlying case is a Section 1983 civil rights suit against
the Defendants regarding care Plaintiff received for an eye
injury at Pinckneyville Correctional Center
(“Pinckneyville”). Magistrate Judge Williams
conducted an evidentiary hearing prior to issuing his R&R
to assess the weight and credibility of the evidence
regarding Plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative
remedies for his medical needs, and additional evidence was
also submitted to the Court at Magistrate Williams'
request (Doc. 60). In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Williams
found that Plaintiff was not credible, and that Plaintiff
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff
filed a timely objection to the R&R (Doc. 65). The
R&R and Plaintiff's objection are now before the
Court for consideration.
reasons explained below, the undersigned overrules
Plaintiff's objections, adopts in full Judge
Williams' R&R, and grants summary judgment to
Defendants Shah, Spiller, and Wexford.
& Factual Background
alleges that on July 14, 2014, he sustained an eye injury
during a basketball game at Pinckneyville (Doc. 1 at 6-7).
Shortly after the injury occurred, Plaintiff saw doctor Vipin
Shah, who examined his eye and directed him to drink more
water (Id.). Shah later prescribed eye drops, though
Plaintiff claims the drops did not help (Id.).
Later, Plaintiff saw Pinckneyville's eye doctor, Dennis
Els, who also prescribed ineffective eye drops. Plaintiff
complained of pain and nausea to no avail (Id.). He
also experienced a visual impairment or a loss of vision in
the injured eye (Id.). Finally, on September 16,
2014, he saw an outside optometrist, who recommended
sunglasses and/or follow-up care, but neither of these
measures was taken (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he
informed Defendant Spiller of his injury and was told to
“man up.” (Id.).
with his complaint, Plaintiff submitted a copy of a grievance
dated October 22, 2014, which reflected a response from
Pinckneyville on December 14, 2014 (Doc. 1 at 26-27). In the
grievance, Plaintiff expressed dissatisfaction with the care
he received for his eye from Defendant Els (Id.).
Plaintiff also appended an emergency grievance dated June 4,
2015, which reflected a response denying emergency status
from Pinckneyville on the same date (Id. at 29-30).
The emergency grievance reiterated Plaintiff's belief
that he was not receiving adequate care from Defendants Els
and Shah, but made no mention of Defendants Spiller or
Wexford (Id.). At the Pavey hearing,
Plaintiff testified that he submitted additional grievances
regarding his eye care, to no avail. He also provided
testimony about the dates and methods of submission he used
for these two grievances and additional grievances, which
Magistrate Judge Williams ultimately characterized as
conflicting with Plaintiff's own prior submissions and
Defendants' records (Doc. 62 at 14-17).
support of their assertion that Plaintiff failed to exhaust
administrative remedies, Defendants supplied the Court with
testimony, grievance logs, and an affidavit from a grievance
counselor at Pinckneyville. The logs and grievance counseling
documentation reflect Plaintiff's October 22, 2014
grievance, but they do not indicate that Plaintiff ever
submitted this grievance to the Administrative Review Board
(“ARB”). The logs also do not reflect that
Plaintiff ever submitted his June 4, 2015 grievance thru
normal grievance channels once it was deemed a non-emergency.
Judge Williams took care to note that Pinckneyville's
grievance log record-keeping was disconcerting, but
ultimately found that despite the procedural infirmities, the
records were sufficient to support a finding that Plaintiff
did not exhaust his alleged grievances as to Defendants Shah,
Wexford, or Spiller. Thus, Magistrate Judge Williams
recommended that the undersigned grant summary judgment for
failure to exhaust as to those three Defendants (Doc. 62 at
objected to the recommendation, alleging that Magistrate
Judge Williams should not make credibility determinations or
resolve factual conflicts at the summary judgment phase (Doc.
65). Additionally, he contended that Magistrate Judge
Williams' recommendation was incorrect because
Pinckneyville's record-keeping was poor and unreliable.
R&R is now before the Court for a ruling.
party timely objects to a magistrate judge's R&R, the
district court- giving deference to the magistrate
judge's findings of fact and credibility determinations
as noted below-must undertake de novo review of the
portions to which an objection has been made. 28 U.S.C.
inmate, Plaintiff's lawsuit is governed by the PLRA,
which requires a prisoner to exhaust his administrative
remedies before filing suit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. In
Illinois, the grievance process requires a prisoner to speak
with his counselor, file a written grievance, and then appeal
that grievance through the institutional and state levels. 20
Ill. Admin. Code §§ 504.810-850. Though the Seventh
Circuit requires strict adherence to the PLRA's
exhaustion requirement, Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d
804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006), the PLRA's plain language is
clear: an inmate must exhaust only those administrative
remedies that are available to him, 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a). Administrative remedies become
“unavailable” when prison officials fail to
respond to a properly filed inmate grievance, Lewis v.
Washington, 300 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2002), or, when
prison employees thwart a prisoner from exhausting,
Dole, 438 F.3d at 809.
Pavey v. Conley (Pavey I), the Seventh
Circuit set forth the procedures for tackling the exhaustion
issue. The first step is for the judge to conduct “a
hearing on exhaustion and [permit] whatever discovery
relating to exhaustion he deems appropriate.” Pavey
I, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008). Upon conducting
the hearing, a court may credit the testimony of one witness
over another. See Pavey v. Conley (Pavey II), 663
F.3d 899, 904 (7th Cir. 2011) (affirming the factual findings
of a magistrate judge, whose R&R included factual
findings that plaintiff was not credible). Thus, unlike other
summary judgment motions, the very purpose of Pavey
I is to allow a judge to resolve swearing contests
between litigants on the limited issue of exhaustion of
administrative remedies. See Pavey I, 544 F.3d at
741 (“Juries decide cases, not issues of judicial
traffic control.”). A magistrate judge's
credibility determinations are afforded great deference.
Pavey II, 663 F.3d at 904; see also Goffman v.
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