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Lowder v. Cardinal

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

January 17, 2018

CURT LOWDER, Plaintiff,
v.
MS. CARDINAL Counselor, MS. FISCHER Counselor, MS. RIGGS Registered Nurse, DR. CHAVEZ, Defendants.

          ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANT DR. CHAVEZ'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Defendant Dr. Mary Ann Chavez seeks summary judgment on her assertion that plaintiff Curt Lowder did not exhaust his administrative remedies as to her prior to filing this action. For the reasons explained below, Dr. Chavez's motion, dkt. [24], is granted.

         I. Background

         Curt Lowder is an Indiana prison inmate. Dr. Chavez is a medical provider in one of the prisons. Mr. Lowder asserts that on September 15 and December 15, 2016, Dr. Chavez was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when she halved his pain medication, changed the timing of pain medication doses, and refused to increase his Neurontin pain medication. He brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against Dr. Chavez, in addition to other claims against other defendants, in March 2017.

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standards

         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). A dispute is genuine only if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Id. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). 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 the motion for summary judgment is the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA'”), which requires that a prisoner exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); 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).

         “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006) (footnote omitted); see also Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004) (“In order to properly exhaust, a prisoner must submit inmate complaints and appeals ‘in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require.'”) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002)). “In order to exhaust administrative remedies, a prisoner must take all steps prescribed by the prison's grievance system.” Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 397 (7th Cir. 2004).

         It is the defendant's burden to establish that the administrative process was available to Mr. Lowder. See Thomas v. Reese, 787 F.3d 845, 847 (7th Cir. 2015) (“Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, the defendants must establish that an administrative remedy was available and that [the plaintiff] failed to pursue it.”). “[T]he ordinary meaning of the word ‘available' is ‘capable of use for the accomplishment of a purpose, ' and that which ‘is accessible or may be obtained.'” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (internal quotation omitted). “[A]n inmate is required to exhaust those, but only those, grievance procedures that are capable of use to obtain some relief for the action complained of.” Id. at 1859 (internal quotation omitted).

         B. Undisputed Facts

         1. Parties

         At all times relevant to the issues in this lawsuit Curt Lowder was an Indiana prison inmate incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF). Dr. Chavez was a medical provider at the ...


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