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Naylor v. Williams

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

January 16, 2018

JOHN NAYLOR, Plaintiff,


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Judge.

         In this civil action, plaintiff John Naylor (“Mr. Naylor”), an Indiana prisoner incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”), alleges that he was subjected to harassment by defendant Williams. He further alleges that the defendant encouraged others to harass him, leading to him being assaulted.

         Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defendant on December 7, 2017. Dkt. No. 19. The defendant's motion argues that the claims alleged against him 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. Naylor filed a motion to dismiss the defendant's motion for summary judgment on December 13, 2017. Dkt. No. 22. That filing was docketed as a motion to dismiss but is construed by the Court as a motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion. Because the filing was actually a response to the pending motion for summary judgment, the clerk is directed to terminate the motion to dismiss at Dkt. No. 22. Mr. Naylor argues in his response that he exhausted his administrative remedies by filing a timely appeal.

         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 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).

         “The 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).

         Because 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. Naylor failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies before he filed this suit. Id. at 681.

         II. Material Facts

         At all times relevant to his claims, Mr. Naylor was incarcerated at Pendleton. Pendleton maintained a grievance policy regarding complaints about prison conditions. The grievance process requires an inmate 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 inmate 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 inmate, 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 inmate 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.

         Mr. Naylor's claim is that Mr. Williams harassed him and caused others to harass and assault him. There is a material dispute of fact as to whether Mr. Naylor filed a grievance about the alleged harassment. The defendant asserts in his motion for summary judgment that Mr. Naylor only filed one grievance naming Mr. Williams and that grievance was about classification.

         Mr. Naylor, on the other hand, submits an affidavit attesting to having filed grievances regarding the harassment and to having exhausted those grievances. He provides further detail in his unsworn response brief, asserting that he placed grievance appeals either in the chow hall grievance box or to staff in G-house as he was directed when he received no response to his initial grievances. He states that he did so because institution policy treats non-responses to grievances as denials.

         III. Discussion

         The defendant argues that Mr. Naylor failed to file a grievance relating to Mr. Williams' alleged harassment. Mr. Naylor, however, has provided testimony which supports his claim that he did ...

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