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Gaines v. Corizon Health

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

June 28, 2017

DEANGELO GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON HEALTH, et al. State Defendants.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING STATE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

          Plaintiff Deangelo Gaines, who at all relevant times was incarcerated at Putnamville Correctional Facility (“Putnamville”), brought this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Corizon, Inc., individual medical providers at Putnamville, and three other employees at Putnamville. As to the latter three employees, Michael Raines, S. Hughes, and B. Oliver (the “State Defendants”), Mr. Gaines alleges that they impeded his ability to obtain pain medication from the commissary in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The State Defendants contend that Mr. Gaines failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding this claim before bringing this action as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).[1] Mr. Gaines has responded, and the State Defendants have replied. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the State Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. [56], is denied, the exhaustion defense rejected, and Mr. Gaines's claims against the State Defendants will proceed to the merits.

         I.

         Standard of Review

         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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).

         II.

         Background

         As stated, the State Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that Mr. Gaines's claims against them are barred under the exhaustion provision of the PLRA. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. That provision requires a prisoner to first exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit in court. The parties both present evidence supporting their respective positions. The following evidence is undisputed.

         The Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) has an Offender Grievance Process (or “grievance policy”) through which inmates can grieve issues related to their conditions of confinement, such as the claims at issue here. The Offender Grievance Process in effect at all times relevant to this action consisted of three steps: (1) informal grievance; (2) formal grievance; and (3) grievance appeal.[2]

         Mr. Gaines has filed numerous grievances during his time at Putnamville. The parties' dispute here centers on Mr. Gaines's grievance identified as Grievance 90567. Mr. Gaines filed an informal grievance, Grievance 90567, on December 9, 2015. See Filing No. 56-1 at 44. The informal grievance form has a blank for an inmate to “List the department OR the name of the staff person(s) about which you are complaining, if any, ” and Mr. Gaines wrote “Policy 04-01-104 ‘Inmate Trust Fund.'” Id. Then, in the space provided for the inmate to “[p]rovide a brief explanation of your complaint, ” Mr. Gaines wrote the following:

Policy section on “Withholding funds” subsection restitution: XV. (C) states that in spite of owing restitution I will be able to purchase “personal hygiene items” and that I would be periodically notified about the status of my restitution. I have been notified about nothing and after numerous requests have been denied purchasing personal hygiene items. . . . I wrote the business office but was told I was wrong about the policy. I would like to purchase personal hygiene items and a periodic update on my account.

Id.

         The Grievance Specialist, Chris Williams, responded in relevant part as follows: “If you owe restitution that is a disciplinary issue and is not a grievable issue through the grievance process. The trust fund office leaves at least $5.00 on an offender[']s account for him to purchase personal hygiene items.” Id. Mr. Gaines checked the box stating that he disagreed with the resolution offered by Mr. Williams. Id.

         Mr. Gaines next filed a formal grievance. The form contains a blank for the inmate to “[p]rovide a brief, clear statement of your complaint or concern. Include any information that may assist staff in responding to your ...


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