United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
MICHAEL D. MASON, Plaintiff,
CORIZON, INC., et al., Defendants.
ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
William T. Lawrence, Judge
Michael Mason, an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility (WVCF), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging that he has received constitutionally
inadequate medical care for bleeding ulcers. Defendant
Hiatt moves for summary judgment arguing that
Mason failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies
as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) before
filing this lawsuit. Mason has responded and Hiatt has replied.
For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment,
Dkt. No. 38, is denied.
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 party asking for summary judgment
“always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, ”
relying on submissions “which it believes demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party
must “go beyond the pleadings” and show that
there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Both
the party “asserting that a fact cannot be, ” and
a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed, must
support their assertions by “citing to particular parts
of materials in the record, ” or by “showing that
the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence
of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce
admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
Statement of Facts
The Grievance Policy
Mason is an inmate at WVCF and has been at all times relevant
to his claims in this case. There is an offender grievance
program in place at WVCF -- IDOC Policy and Administrative
Procedure 00-02-301, Offender Grievance Process. This
Grievance Process was in place at the time of Mr. Mason's
the IDOC offender grievance program, offenders can grieve
actions of individual staff, including allegations of
inadequate medical care. Pursuant to the Grievance Process,
an inmate must first attempt to informally resolve his
complaint. If the informal complaint process does not resolve
the inmate's issue, he may then submit an “Offender
Grievance” to the Executive Assistant / Grievance
Specialist. 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 fifteen working days of submission,
the offender may file an appeal to the Department of Offender
Grievance Management at IDOC's Central Office. The
records maintained by IDOC and WVCF document whether an
offender attempted an informal grievance and filed a formal
grievance or grievance appeal. These records reflect that Mr.
Mason has not filed any grievances regarding the claims
raised in this case.
Mr. Mason's Attempts to Grieve
days after the incident at issue in this case, Mason placed
an informal grievance in the counselor's box in his unit.
This informal grievance was addressed “to the
infirmary.” He did not receive a response to this
informal grievance attempt. He “waited ten days or
so” and wrote to his counselor to follow up and she did
not respond. When he received no response, he believed that
under the grievance policy, his grievance had been denied. He
also believed, based on a posting on the board in his cell
house, that he was not going to be given a formal grievance
addition, the policy in place at WVCF required an inmate to
have a completed informal grievance when filing a formal
grievance. Otherwise, the formal grievance would be rejected
and not filed. Finally, Mr. Mason could not meet the
timeframe for submitting a formal grievance set forth in the
Grievance Process because his counselor did not respond to
his informal grievance.
Hiatt argues that by failing to submit any grievances related
to his claims, Mr. Mason has failed to exhaust his available
administrative remedies. Mr. Mason argues that he attempted
to exhaust his available administrative remedies, but the
failure to respond to his informal grievance by his counselor
made doing so impossible.
PLRA 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). The prisoner plaintiff must have
completed “the administrative review process in
accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including
deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal
court.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84
(2006); see also Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655
(7th Cir. 2004) (“In order to properly exhaust, ...