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Lynch v. Corizon, Inc.

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

November 21, 2017

KIRK LYNCH, Plaintiff,
CORIZON, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

          Plaintiff Kirk Lynch, an inmate at the New Castle Correctional Facility (“New Castle”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that a number of different defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.[1] The defendants move for summary judgment on his claims arguing that he has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment, dkt. [29], is granted.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “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.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         Statement of Facts

          A. Grievance Program

          As required under Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) policy, there is an offender grievance program in place at New Castle. Offenders are instructed on the grievance process at the intake facility-Reception Diagnostic Center, and again when they arrive at the New Castle Correctional Facility.

         Under the Offender Grievance Process, offenders can grieve actions of individual staff, including claims that facility staff were deliberately indifferent or that staff retaliated against them, and the facility can provide appropriate relief for substantiated grievances. This includes grievances regarding an offender's medical care. The grievance process begins with the informal resolution process. Within five business days of the date of the incident at issue, the offender shall contact his Casework Manager, his Caseworker, or other Unit Team staff member to request State Form 52897 Offender Complaint - Informal Process Level. The offender is then required to attempt to resolve his complaint informally by contacting an appropriate staff member within five business days of receiving the Offender Complaint form.

         If the informal complaint process does not resolve the Offender's issue within 10 business days, he may then proceed to the Level I formal grievance process. The formal grievance process begins when an offender submits a completed State Form 45471 “Offender Grievance” to the Grievance Specialist. The Offender Grievance must be submitted within five business days of the date a staff member informs the offender there will be no informal resolution to the grievance, within five business days of the date the offender refuses the informal resolution offered by staff, or the 10th business day after the offender first seeks an informal resolution from staff.

         The grievance submitted by the offender is screened by the Grievance Specialist to determine whether the submitted grievance meets the requirements for a formal grievance as set forth in the IDOC grievance policy. If it is determined that the grievance does not meet the requirements of the policy, the grievance is returned to the offender along with State Form 45475 “Return of Grievance.” The Return of Grievance form shall indicate the reason for the return. If an adequate grievance form is received, the Grievance Specialist enters the grievance, the computer program OGRE assigns the grievance a case number, and the Grievance Specialist provides a receipt for the grievance to the offender. If the offender does not receive either a Return of Grievance Form or a grievance receipt within seven business days after submitting a grievance, the offender must immediately notify the Grievance Specialist of the missing grievance, retaining a copy of the notice, so that the Grievance Specialist can investigate the matter and respond to the offender. The Grievance Specialist may accept a late grievance, or one that does not conform to the requirements set forth in the IDOC grievance policy, if an offender demonstrates good cause. If the grievance is not resolved in a manner that satisfies the offender, or if he did not receive a response to the grievance within twenty business days of submission, the offender may file an appeal to the Department Offender Grievance Manager at IDOC's Central Office. The offender grievance appeal form is submitted by the offender to the facility Grievance Specialist, where it is entered into the computer system and forwarded electronically to the Department Offender Grievance Manager. The Grievance Specialist also provides a receipt for the appeal to the offender.

         In short, exhaustion of the grievance process requires an offender to attempt an informal resolution, to file a formal grievance, and to pursue an appeal to the Department Offender Grievance Manager at IDOC's Central Office.

         B. Lynch's Grievances

         Jennifer Smith is the Grievance Specialist at New Castle. Ms. Smith has access to the files in which offender grievances are maintained (“offender packets”); the computer records containing the offender grievances filed (“OGRE”); and IDOC's Offender Information System (“OIS”), which is a computer record of information relating to offenders who are incarcerated in IDOC.

         On November 3, 2016, Mr. Lynch submitted an Offender Grievance State Form 45471 regarding documents from home that were allegedly confiscated and asking for their return. Ms. Smith completed a Return of Grievance State Form 45475 on the same day instructing Mr. Lynch to attempt to resolve this grievance informally, along with additional ...

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