United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY DISCUSSING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
William T. Lawrence, United States District Judge.
civil action, plaintiff Samuel Davis (“Mr.
Davis”), an Indiana prisoner incarcerated at the Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash”), alleges
that he was subjected to excessive force when defendants
Baxter, Donaldson and Miller shut his cell door on his arm.
pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by Defendants Baxter, Donaldson and Miller on April 12,
2017 (Dkt. No. 22). The defendants' motion argues that
the claims alleged against them are barred under the
exhaustion provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, that requires a
prisoner to first exhaust his available administrative
remedies before filing a lawsuit in court. Mr. Davis argues
in response that he exhausted his administrative remedies by
filing a timely appeal. The defendants replied and the
plaintiff filed a surreply. This motion is now fully briefed.
reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment,
Dkt. No. 22, is denied and further
proceedings are directed.
Standard of Review
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). 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).
applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are
material.” National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc.,
v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir.
1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The
substantive law applicable to this motion for summary
judgment is the PLRA, which requires that “[n]o action
shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under
section 1983 . . . until such administrative remedies as are
available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e;
see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002).
“[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all
inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege
excessive force or some other wrong.” Id. at
532 (citation omitted). The requirement to exhaust provides
“that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a
supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed
administrative remedy has been exhausted.” Woodford
v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006) (citation omitted).
Exhaustion of available administrative remedies
“‘means using all steps that the agency holds
out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the
issues on the merits).'” Id. at 90
(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024
(7th Cir. 2002)). Proper use of the facility's grievance
system requires a prisoner “to file complaints and
appeals in the place, and at the time [as] the prison's
administrative rules require.” Pozo, 286 F.3d
at 1025; see also Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804,
809 (7th Cir. 2006).
exhaustion is an affirmative defense, “the burden of
proof is on the prison officials.” Kaba v.
Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 680 (7th Cir. 2006). So here, the
defendants bear the burden of demonstrating that Mr. Davis
failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies
before he filed this suit. Id. at 681.
times relevant to his claims in this suit, Mr. Davis was
incarcerated at Wabash. Wabash maintained a grievance policy
regarding complaints about prison conditions. The grievance
process requires an offender to attempt to resolve the
grievance informally through officials at the facility by
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 written complaint (Level I
grievance) to the Grievance Specialist of the facility where
the incident occurred. If the formal written complaint is not
resolved in a manner that satisfies the offender, he may
submit an appeal (Level II) within ten (10) working days from
the date of receipt of the Level I grievance response. If the
offender receives no grievance response within 25 working
days of the day he submitted the grievance, he may appeal as
though the grievance had been denied. In that event, the time
to appeal begins on the 26th working day after the grievance
was submitted and ends 10 working days later.
Davis' claim is that corrections officers closed his cell
door on his arm. The parties agree that Mr. Davis attempted
to resolve his grievance informally and filed a formal
written complaint in accord with the requirements of the
facility's grievance process. He filed an informal
complaint one day after the alleged incident and was seen by
medical several days later. Medical personnel noted no
bruising at that time. Mr. Davis then filed a formal
complaint stating that he was still in pain and wanted
another medical examination. He was again seen by medical and
was given an appeal form.
is, however, a material dispute of fact as to whether Mr.
Davis appealed his grievance. The defendants assert in their
motion for summary judgment that Mr. Davis never filed his
appeal. They submit a report of Mr. Davis' grievances to
show that this grievance was not appealed. The defendants
note that Mr. Davis submitted the completed formal and
informal grievance forms to this Court earlier in this case,
but did not submit the completed appeal form until defendants
filed their motion for summary judgment. They conclude from
this that Mr. Davis did not complete the appeal form until
after the motion for summary judgment was filed in this case.
Davis, on the other hand, attests to having submitted the
appeal form to the appropriate grievance specialist at
Wabash. He further asserts that he has had repeated problems
with the grievance specialist losing his paperwork or failing
to file his grievance forms as a means of retaliation.