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Mason v. Corizon, Inc.

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

March 8, 2018

MICHAEL D. MASON, Plaintiff,
CORIZON, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff 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[1] 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.[2] Mason has responded and Hiatt has replied. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 38, is denied.

         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 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. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B).

         II. Statement of Facts

         A. The Grievance Policy

         Mr. 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 allegations.

         Under 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.

         B. Mr. Mason's Attempts to Grieve

         A few 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 form.

         In 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.

         III. Discussion

         Defendant 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.

         The 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, ...

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