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Lewicki v. Zatecky

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

April 11, 2018

DAVID LEWICKI, Plaintiff,
v.
DUSHAN ZATECKY individually and in his official capacity, as Superintendent for the Pendleton Correction Facility, DUANE ALSIP individually and in his official capacity as Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the Pendleton Correction Facility, JEREMY ALBERSON individually and in his official capacity as Maintenance Supervisor for the Pendleton Correctional Facility, MICHAEL CAYLOR individually and in his official capacity as a Lieutenant and Supervisor over G-Cell House at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. [21]. Plaintiff David Lewicki (“Lewicki”), is a prisoner incarcerated at Pendleton Correctional Facility (“PCF”). In this civil rights action, Lewicki alleges that the Defendants denied him proper heating and cooling in his cell at PCF between September 2, 2016 and June 10, 2017, exposing him to extremely high and low temperatures and causing him significant physical and mental injuries. The Court screened the Complaint and permitted Lewicki to proceed with Eighth Amendment claims against all four Defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         The Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the basis that Lewicki failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before bringing this lawsuit as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion, Dkt. [21], is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. 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.” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 this motion for summary judgment is the 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.” Porter, 534 U.S. 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 Defendants' burden to establish that the administrative process was available to Lewicki. 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).

         II. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         The following facts, construed in the manner most favorable to Lewicki as the non-movant, are undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment.

         A. The Grievance Process

         At all times relevant to his Complaint, Lewicki was confined by the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) at PCF. The IDOC has an Offender Grievance Process that is intended to permit inmates to resolve concerns and complaints relating to their conditions of confinement prior to filing suit in court. Dkt. [21]-1 at 11-35. According to IDOC policy, an inmate is provided with information about the Offender Grievance Process during admission and orientation upon arrival at an IDOC facility.[1] Id. at 19-20.

         The Offender Grievance Process consists of three steps. In order to exhaust administrative remedies, an offender must pursue a grievance through the final available step.

         The Offender Grievance Process begins with the offender contacting staff to discuss the matter or incident subject to the grievance and seeking informal resolution. At this stage in the process, the offender may request an informal grievance form within five business days of the incident giving rise to the grievance. Id. at 24. The offender must then submit the informal grievance form within five business days after receiving it. Id.

         The second step in the Offender Grievance Process involves submission of a formal grievance to the facility's offender grievance specialist. A formal grievance must be submitted within five business days after receiving a response to the informal grievance, within ten business days “after the offender first seeks an informal resolution, ” and within twenty business days from the date of the incident. Id. at 25-26.

         A formal grievance must comply with several criteria. Id. at 27-28. If it does not, the grievance specialist has discretion to adjudicate it but may instead reject it and return it to the offender with an explanation of the deficiency and how it may be corrected. Id. at 28-29. Within five business days after receiving a rejected formal grievance, the offender may then revise the grievance and return it to the grievance specialist. Id. at 29. If a formal grievance is initially submitted on time but it is rejected as noncompliant, the offender may revise and resubmit the grievance within five business days even if doing so results in the revised grievance being submitted after the original deadline to file a formal grievance. Id. at 26 (“The time limit is extended if a form submitted within that timeframe is returned to the offender after screening”).

         The third and final step of the Offender Grievance Process is an appeal. However, an inmate may not appeal from a formal grievance that has been rejected as noncompliant. See Dkt. [21]-1 at 30-32 (indicating that the Offender Grievance Specialist must respond to a formal grievance or, at least initiate an investigation after accepting a formal grievance, before the inmate may appeal); see also Dkt. [27] at 3 (stating that Lewicki “could not appeal these rejected grievances”).

         B. Lewicki&#3 ...


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