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Pritt v. Brandou

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 25, 2017

STEVEN W. PRITT, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY BRANDOU, Defendant.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON EXHAUSTION

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Steven Pritt, who at all relevant times was incarcerated at the Marion County Jail ("MCJ"), brought this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant Deputy Brandou. Mr. Pritt alleges that Deputy Brandou assaulted him on July 14, 2016, without cause during his short stay at MCJ. Deputy Brandou raised the affirmative defense that Mr. Pritt failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding this claim before bringing this action as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). In response, Mr. Pritt filed a "dispositive motion" arguing that he exhausted his administrative remedies, which the Court construed as a motion for summary judgment. Deputy Brandou filed a cross motion for summary judgment. Mr. Pritt has responded, and Deputy Brandou has replied. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the undisputed evidence shows that MCJ's grievance process was not available to Mr. Pritt, and thus Deputy Brandou's exhaustion defense must be rejected.

         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).

         "The existence of cross-motions for summary judgment does not. . . imply that there are no genuine issues of material fact." R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v. Int'l Union of Operating Engineers, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, "[p]arties have different burdens of proof with respect to particular facts; different legal theories will have an effect on which facts are material; and the process of taking the facts in the light most favorable to the non- movant, first for one side and then for the other, may highlight the point that neither side has enough to prevail without a trial." Id. at 648.

         II. Background

         As stated, the parties both move for summary judgment on Deputy Brandou's affirmative defense that Mr. Pritt's claim is 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. The parties both present evidence supporting their respective positions. The Court will set forth the evidence presented by each party in turn, all of which is undisputed.

         A. Deputy Brandou's Evidence

         Mr. Pritt was transferred to MCJ on July 13, 2016. All inmates receive an Inmate Handbook upon arrival at MCJ. The Inmate Handbook, among other things, sets forth the grievance procedure for inmates at MCJ. The Inmate Handbook states, "[a]ny and all complaints or grievances concerning the jail, its conditions, its functions (including medical services), or the staff may be forwarded to the grievance deputy." Filing No. 39-1 at 5. The complete grievance process includes three steps: (1) informal grievance; (2) formal grievance; and (3) grievance appeal.

         Only the informal grievance step is relevant here, as it is undisputed that Mr. Pritt did not file an informal grievance. The Inmate Handbook states that "[a]n informal grievance shall be filed within forty-eight (48) hours of the incident on an informal grievance form, which may be requested from the mailroom staff" Filing No. 39-1 at 5 (emphasis in original). Further, "[a]n informal grievance form may be submitted to mailroom staff in an envelope also provided by mailroom staff. Mailroom staff will deliver the informal grievance to the Grievance Deputy." Filing No. 39-1 at 5. If this is completed, the Inmate Handbook provides that "[a] written resolution will be delivered to the inmate within fifteen (15) days." Filing No. 39-1 at 5.

         Other than the Inmate Handbook, the only other evidence submitted by Deputy Brandou is the affidavit of Rachel Gohman, who is the Lead Paralegal at the Marion County Sheriffs Office. As such, she is familiar with the grievance database, and attests that a search of the database "found no record of any complaint or grievance filed by Steven Pritt in July 2016." Filing No. 39-1 at 1. Beyond this, she testifies only that all inmates received a copy of the Inmate Handbook when they arrive at MCJ. See Filing No. 39-1 at 1.

         B. Mr. Pritt's Evidence

         Mr. Pritt, in his initial motion for summary judgment, argues that the remedy process was unavailable to him. Specifically, he argues that he was denied grievance forms and, due to his physical and mental condition, was unable to complete the grievance process. After Deputy Brandou filed his motion for summary judgment with the evidence outlined above, Mr. Pritt submitted a wide range of evidence and arguments regarding both exhaustion and the merits of his underlying claim (and other claims not proceeding in this action). Only a small portion of it is relevant to the question of exhaustion, and is set forth below.

         Mr. Pritt submitted two declarations. The first, which was submitted at the beginning of this action in support of his motion for a preliminary injunction, details a litany of things that occurred to him during his short stay at MCJ. Relevant here are the following attestations. Early in his stay at MCJ, an unnamed Deputy (through discovery identified as defendant Deputy Brandou) escorted Mr. Pritt to medical. During the escort, Deputy Brandou slammed him against the wall, stomped on his left foot, and kneed him in the thigh, yelling "you don't listen." Filing No. 40-1 at 12. Once at medical, the nurse took Mr. Pritt's vitals and asked if he had open wounds. Deputy Brandou gave Mr. Pritt the "stink eye," and Mr. Pritt said "no not yet but prob[ably] some bruises." Filing No. 40-1 at 12. Mr. Pritt explained his other health problems and requested his medication, but the nurse said he needs to submit a medical request. Filing No. 40-1 ...


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