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Bell v. Corizon

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

March 22, 2018

JOHN BELL, Plaintiff,


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff John Bell, an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Bell alleges that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights through their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and committed malpractice under state law.

         The defendants move for summary judgment on Mr. Bell's claims arguing that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) before filing this lawsuit. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment, dkt. [25], is granted. Mr. Bell's motion for preliminary injunction, dkt. [30], and motion for judicial notice, dkt. [37], are denied as moot as the action is dismissed without prejudice.

         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

         Mr. Bell is an inmate at WVCF and has been at all times relevant to his claims in this case. The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) has an Offender Grievance Process - IDOC Policy and Administrative Procedure 00-02-301, Offender Grievance Process - which is intended to permit inmates to resolve concerns and complaints relating to their conditions of confinement prior to filing suit in court. All offenders are made aware of the offender grievance process during orientation and a copy of the grievance process is available in the law libraries.

         Under the IDOC offender grievance program, offenders can grieve actions of individual staff, including claims that facility staff was deliberately indifferent or that staff retaliated against them. Pursuant to the Grievance Process, an inmate must first attempt to informally resolve his complaint. Within five business days of the date of the incident, the offender shall contact his Casework Manager, his Caseworker, or other Unit Team staff member to request a State Form 52897 Offender Complaint - Informal Process Level. The offender is then required to attempt to resolve his complaint informally by contacting an appropriate staff member within five business days of receiving the Offender Complaint form.

         If the informal complaint process does not resolve the inmate's issue within ten business days, he may then submit an “Offender Grievance” to the Executive Assistant of Grievance / Grievance Specialist, which must be submitted within five business days of the date a staff member informs the offender there will be no informal resolution to the grievance, within five business days of the date the offender refuses the informal resolution offered by staff, or the tenth business day after the offender first seeks an informal resolution from staff. The grievance submitted by the offender is screened by the Grievance Specialist to determine whether the submitted grievance meets the requirements for a formal grievance as set forth in the IDOC grievance policy. If it is determined that the grievance does not meet the requirements of the policy, the grievance is returned to the offender along with a state form 45475 “Return of Grievance.” The Return of Grievance form shall indicate the reason for the return. If an adequate grievance form is received, the Grievance Specialist enters the grievance, assigns the grievance a case number, and provides a receipt for the grievance to the offender.

         If the offender does not receive either a return of grievance form or a grievance receipt within seven business days after submitting a grievance, the offender must immediately notify the Grievance Specialist of the missing grievance, retaining a copy of the notice, so that the Grievance Specialist can investigate the matter and respond to the offender. The Grievance Specialist may accept a late grievance, or one that does not conform to the requirements set forth in the IDOC grievance policy, if an offender demonstrates good cause.

         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 twenty 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.

         On May 1, 2017, Mr. Bell filed an informal Offender Complaint, alleging that on October 27, 2016, Sergeant Ledford took his prescribed knee brace during a cell inspection, and sent it over to medical. See dkt. 27-1 at 37. Mr. Bell further explains that on November 16, 2016, Dr. Chavez sent emails to several departments within medical to (1) locate the knee brace; (2) determine the type of support that was ordered; and (3) order further appropriate support for him. See id. Nurse Robinson responded that a knee brace was given to him by medical on November 23, 2016, and that the confiscation of his property was not a medical issue, and the medical department did not have his knee brace. Id.

         Thereafter, on May 15, 2017, Mr. Bell filed a formal Offender Grievance that was returned as untimely. Dkt. 27-1 at 35. In his formal Offender Grievance, Mr. Bell again raised the issue that on October 27, 2016, Sergeant Ledford and other officers confiscated his leg brace and allegedly brought it to medical. He further explains that in a November 2016 visit, Dr. Chavez attempted to locate the leg brace, to determine the type of support ordered, and order further appropriate support. ...

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