United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT, GRANTING MOTION FOR
CLARIFICATION, AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Samuel Davis, an Indiana inmate who at all relevant times was
incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
(“WVCF”), brought this action against defendants
who are all correctional officers at WVCF. Mr. Davis alleges
that on June 16, 2016, defendants Blackman, Dugger, Goff, and
Myers violated his Eighth Amendment rights by pushing him
into the corner of his bed, bending his wrist, and closing a
cell door on him causing him to be pinned in the doorframe.
All four defendants move for summary judgment asserting that
Mr. Davis failed to exhaust his administrative remedies
before bringing this suit. The parties have each submitted
multiple briefs and exhibits in support of their respective
positions. For the reasons explained in this Entry,
defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is
granted. Plaintiff's December 7, 2017,
motion for clarification, dkt. , is
granted to the extent the arguments
presented were considered by the Court in addressing the
motion for summary judgment.
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 Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“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). 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). The
exhaustion requirement “is an affirmative defense that
a defendant has the burden of proving.” King v.
McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 893 (7th Cir. 2015).
Court begins by discussing the administrative remedy process
in effect at WVCF during the relevant time. This will be
followed by a summary of the evidence presented by defendants
and, in turn, Mr. Davis.
Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) has an
Offender Grievance Process (“OGP”) through which
inmates, including those at WVCF, can grieve issues related
to their conditions of confinement, such as the claims at
issue here. The OGP in effect at all times relevant to this
action consisted of three stages: the informal grievance
stage, the filing of a formal grievance, and the filing of a
grievance appeal. The OGP is complete, and all administrative
remedies are fully exhausted, once the inmate has received a
response to his grievance appeal.
submit the majority of their evidence through the affidavit
of Teresa Littlejohn, the WVCF Grievance Specialist. Ms.
Littlejohn was responsible for entering offender grievances
and responses into the IDOC's grievance tracking system
and is the custodian of grievance records at WVCF. She
reviewed the grievance records for Mr. Davis while he was
incarcerated at WVCF beginning on May 17, 2013. Dkt. 33-1,
to Ms. Littlejohn, the records reveal that Mr. Davis filed
two grievances at WVCF concerning being assaulted by staff.
These grievances were assigned numbers 92991 and 92992. The
first grievance alleged that Corrections Officer Sgt.
Donaldson grabbed Mr. Davis by the shoulder on June 22, 2016.
Dkt. 33, attachments 4-7. The second grievance, number 92992,
concerns an allegation that Sgt. Donaldson and Officer Miller
closed a cell door on Mr. Davis's arm on July 6, 2016.
Dkt. 33-8. In this grievance, after Mr. Davis describes what
happened on July 6, 2016, he adds a final sentence:
“Also, I would like for you to view and save video for
G-Unit on 7-16-2016 [sic] from 7:40 a.m. on.”
Id. Ms. Littlejohn notes that she issued Mr. Davis a
blank formal appeal form, pre-marked with grievance number
92992, for his use in appealing the matter. However, Ms.
Littlejohn states that Mr. Davis never appealed. Dkt. 33-1,
Davis in response contends he has attempted to grieve the
issue. He provides an informal grievance form dated June 29,
2016, sufficiently describing the date and time of the
incident giving rise to this lawsuit. Dkt. 47-1, p. 1. He
does not name specific officers, but described them as
“all the officers that came to G-Unit on June 16th,
2016, between 8:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.” Id. The
informal grievance form also contains a description of Mr.
Davis's claim: “They assaulted me after they cuffed
my hand behind my back.” Id. Mr. Davis also
submitted a response to this informal grievance, on which Lt.
C. Nicholson wrote that the video was saved and the incident
documented. Mr. Davis signed this response, checking the box
indicating his disagreement, on June 30, 2016. Dkt. 47-1, p.
Mr. Davis submits an offender grievance form, dated July 12,
2016, in which he describes the alleged June 16 assault by
staff, but not specifically naming the officers. Dkt. 47-1,
pp. 3-4. Much of this grievance is about medical issues, but
there is ample description of the assault allegations. In the
form section for stating the relief sought, Mr. Davis wrote
“For conduct report to be dropped to a C364 or
C347.” Dkt. 47-1, p. 3. Mr. Davis does not provide the
disposition of this grievance. Id.
Davis does not further describe any attempts to appeal the
grievance, but he generally asserts that he did, in fact,
write to the facility head about the incident. He includes a
letter to Mr. Brown, the Warden of WVCF, in which he
described the June 16 incident, and asks that Warden Brown
view and preserve video of the incident. Dkt. 47-1, p. 5.
This letter is dated June 20, 2016, just four days after the
incident, and nine days before the informal grievance form
was signed. Id. Also submitted is a letter Mr. Davis
wrote to IDOC Internal Affairs. It is also dated June 20,
2016, and mirrors the letter sent to Warden Brown. In this
latter Mr. Davis also asks that video of the incident be
preserved. Dkt. 47-1, p. 6. An Internal Affairs investigator
wrote back to Mr. Davis on June 22, 2016, informing him that
the video had been preserved. Dkt. 47-1, p. 7.
reply, defendants assert that the documents provided by Mr.
Davis were not included in the IDOC's grievance system
(nor discussed in their motion for summary judgment, nor
discussed in Ms. Littlejohn's affidavit) because they
were never properly filed. Dkt. 50. Defendants then provide
their own copies of these documents to demonstrate that Mr.
Davis attempted to file a formal grievance after his informal
grievance had been denied, but that the formal grievance was
returned to him. Dkt. 49-4, p. 1. A “Return of
Grievance” form dated July 21, 2016, concerning the
formal grievance filed the day before, reflects the grievance
was returned because “[r]equested relief not authorized
through the grievance process.” Id. As noted