United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
BRYAN A. OGLE, Plaintiff,
RICHARD BROWN, KAREN RICHARDS, SUE WOODS, Defendants.
ENTRY DENYING MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE
J. McKINNEY, JUDGE.
Court entered Final Judgment in this action on September 30,
2016, after granting the defendants' motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Presently before the Court is the
plaintiff's motion to correct error in which he asks the
Court to reconsider that decision. Given its substance, this
motion shall be treated as a Rule 59(e) motion. See
Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 493-94 (7th Cir.
2008) (“[W]hether a motion . . . should be analyzed
under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) depends on the
substance of the motion, not on the timing or label
affixed to it.”).
purpose of a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule
59(e) is to have the Court reconsider matters “properly
encompassed in a decision on the merits.” Osterneck
v. Ernst and Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 174 (1988). To
receive relief under Rule 59(e), the moving party “must
clearly establish (1) that the court committed a manifest
error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence
precluded entry of judgment.” Edgewood Manor
Apartment Homes, LLC v. RSUI Indem. Co., 733 F.3d 761,
770 (7th Cir. 2013). A “manifest error” means
“wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to
recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v.
Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir.
2000). Relief through a Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration
is an “extraordinary remed[y] reserved for the
exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d
582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008).
plaintiff argues that the Court made several errors of law or
fact in granting the defendants' motion to dismiss.
First, he argues that the Court erred in holding that he did
not need to file a notice of tort claim with the State of
Indiana in order to exhaust his administrative remedies under
the PLRA before filing his § 1983 suit in federal court
regarding his deficient medical care. But as the Court
explained in its Entry, the PLRA requires prisoners to
“comply with the specific procedures and deadlines
established by the prison's policy.”
King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 893 (7th Cir. 2015)
(emphasis added). The Indiana Tort Claims Act is not a prison
policy, and indeed only applies to “a claim or suit in
tort, ” Indiana Code § 34-13-3-1(a), which a
§1983 claim is not. Cf. Cantroll v. Morris, 849
N.E.2d 488, 506 (Ind. 2006) (“[T]he [Indiana Tort
Claims Act] does not apply to claims based on 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.”). Therefore, in order to exhaust
one's administrative remedies under the PLRA prior to
bringing a § 1983 suit in federal court, a prisoner such
as the plaintiff does not need to file a notice of tort claim
under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.
plaintiff resists this conclusion on the ground that he could
not receive monetary relief through the grievance process and
can instead only obtain monetary relief by filing a tort
claim, making the tort claim process necessary for exhaustion
under the PLRA. Again, the plaintiff misunderstands the law.
An Indiana tort claim is separate and distinct from the
grievance policy. A tort claim is not required before filing
a § 1983 action, but under the PLRA, complying with the
prison's grievance policy is. Even if the grievance
policy does not permit monetary relief and a prisoner wants
monetary relief in his § 1983 action, he still must file
the required grievances regarding the underlying factual
issues. See White v. Bukowski, 800 F.3d 392, 395
(7th Cir. 2015) (noting that the Supreme Court in Booth
v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001), held that exhaustion
was required “even if the prison's grievance system
provided no damages remedy” as long as any action can
be taken in response to the grievance). This makes sense
given that one of the purposes of the exhaustion requirement
is to “[allow prisons] to address complaints about the
program it administers before being subjected to suit.”
Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 721 (7th Cir. 2011)
(citations and quotation marks omitted). In short, the
exhaustion requirement is about the underlying facts and the
prison's ability to response to them, not the specific
relief sought by the plaintiff. Simply because a plaintiff
wants monetary relief that cannot be awarded through
grievance process does not mean that the process is not the
one that must be followed to exhaust under the PLRA.
the plaintiff presents a new argument regarding his need for
filing a tort claim: he needed to utilize the tort claim
process to obtain relevant evidence that would allow him to
adequately plead his § 1983 claim, but can longer do so
because his tort claim is untimely. The plaintiff's
asserted right, however, “is to access the
courts, and only if the defendants' conduct
prejudices a potentially meritorious challenge to the
prisoner's conviction, sentence, or conditions of
confinement has this right been infringed.”
Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir.
2006). Thus simply alleging that he was denied the ability to
timely file a tort claim-the process of which he wanted to
use to gain more information to file his § 1983
claim-does not establish that he was denied access to the
courts. The plaintiff's ability to continue filing
documents in this case shows he has the capacity to make
filings with this Court, and the plaintiff himself
acknowledges that his statute of limitations has not run on
his § 1983 claim regarding deficient medical care. The
plaintiff can therefore file this case immediately, and he
does not need the Indiana tort claims process to do so. To
the extent the plaintiff is unaware of certain
defendants' identities or other pertinent factual
information, he can use the discovery processes in that case,
once it is filed, to discover that information.
the plaintiff asserts that the Court denied his request for
injunctive relief-i.e., guaranteed access to the law library,
the ability to be personally present when documents are filed
using the e-filing system, and a receipt of proof of
submitting documents for filing-without explanation. But to
be entitled to any injunctive relief, the plaintiff must have
a viable claim. For the reasons explained in the Court's
previous Entry and herein, he has not adequately plead any
the plaintiff contends that he could file an amended
complaint that sufficiently alleges he was injured by his
inability to timely file an Indiana tort claim by adding
allegations regarding his need to utilize the tort claim
process to discover information regarding his § 1983
claim. For the reasons explained above, any such additional
allegations would fail to state an access-to-courts claim and
thus the amendment to the Complaint would be futile.
the plaintiff has failed to establish that the Court
committed a manifest error of law or fact in dismissing his
Complaint. His motion to ...