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Andress v. Richard

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 19, 2016



          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court

         Daniel Andress filed this action on January 8, 2016, contending that his Constitutional Rights were violated while he was incarcerated in the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”). Mr. Andress claims that on August 19, 2015, his left leg became tangled in computer wires under a computer table. When he attempted to stand up, he fell and fractured his leg. The defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that Mr. Andress failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), before filing this lawsuit.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying” designated evidence which “demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations. Instead, “[t]o successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Trask-Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P., 534 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). “The non-movant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted).


         A. Undisputed Facts

         At all times relevant to his Complaint, Mr. Andress was confined by the IDOC at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). The IDOC has an Offender Grievance Process which is intended to permit inmates to resolve concerns and complaints relating to their conditions of confinement prior to filing suit in court. As an inmate at Wabash Valley, Mr. Andress had access to the Offender Grievance Process. All offenders are made aware of the Offender Grievance Process during orientation and a copy of the Grievance Process is available in various locations within the prisons.

         The Grievance Process consists of three steps. It begins with the offender contacting staff to discuss the matter or incident subject to the grievance and seeking informal resolution. If the offender is unable to obtain a resolution of the grievance informally, he may submit a formal grievance to the Grievance Officer of the facility where the incident occurred. If the formal written grievance is not resolved in a manner that satisfies the offender, he may submit an appeal. Exhaustion of the grievance procedure requires pursuing a grievance to the final step.

         On August 31, 2015, Mr. Andress submitted an informal complaint regarding the incident that occurred on August 19, 2015. Karen Richards responded by checking the box “Resolution” followed with the explanation that Mr. Andress was clumsy and his accident was no one's fault. Mr. Andress indicated he disagreed with the result and sent it to the grievance specialist [dkt. 27, at pp. 4, 6]. On September 10, 2015, Mr. Andress filed a formal complaint regarding the incident and requested compensation in the amount of $25, 000 and the “cords to be reported to maintenance for some kind of way to be removed from the floor.” There is a hand written note at the top of the formal grievance that states “monetary compensation is not available through grievance process.” [dkt. 27, at p. 7]. The grievance was returned stating this was a non-grievable issue. Despite being told this was a non-grievable issue, Mr. Andress attempted to appeal the denial of his formal grievance. [dkt. 27, at pp. 4-5]. On January 8, 2016, Mr. Andress filed his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging his rights under the Eighth Amendment were violated when he was injured on August 19, 2015, as a result of the conditions of confinement.

         The grievance policy states that Tort Claims are not appropriate for the grievance process. [dkt. 21-2, at p. 5].

         B. Exhaustion

         The PLRA requires that a prisoner exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Porter v. Nussle,534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Woodford v. Ngo,548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006) (footnote omitted); see also Dale v. Lappin,376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004) (“In order to properly exhaust, a prisoner must submit inmate complaints and appeals ‘in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require.'”)(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry,286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002)). Strict compliance is required with respect to exhaustion, and a prisoner must properly follow the prescribed administrative procedures in order to exhaust his remedies. Dole v. Chandler,438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). The PLRA's exhaustion ...

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