United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
JAMES C. WEST, Plaintiff,
JULIE LARSON, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Simon Judge
C. West, a prisoner without a lawyer, proceeds on an Eighth
Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs against Nurse Lynn S. Mahoney Henckel. He alleges that
she refused to provide him with blood pressure medication.
Nurse Henckel filed the instant motion for summary judgment,
arguing that West did not exhaust his administrative
remedies. In support of the motion, Nurse Henckel provides
the St. Joseph County Jail grievance procedure, which states:
1. Submit a grievance form with the pod deputy.
The grievance will be numbered and sent to the supervisor
responsible for the person or issue the grievance address
3. Following the investigation of the claim or complaint
a written response to your grievance will be returned to you
upon completion of the investigation.
You may file another grievance on the same issue which will
be forwarded to the Jail Commander for a second review. You
must indicate on the grievance that it is the second
attempt to have your grievance reviewed. Should the
grievance require further review it may be submitted to the
at 26. Nurse Henckel also provides an affidavit, attesting
that she is the nurse manager at the St. Joseph County Jail
and reviews two to fifteen inmate grievances per day.
Id. at 22. She further attests that she does not
recall any grievances filed by West against her. Id.
judgment must be granted when “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
genuine dispute of material fact exists when “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To
determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists,
the court must construe all facts in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. Heft v. Moore, 351 F.3d 278,
282 (7th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, a party opposing summary
judgment may not rely on allegations or denials in his or her
own pleading, but rather must “marshal and present the
court with the evidence she contends will prove her
case.” Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc.,
621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010).
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) prohibits
prisoners from bringing an action in federal court with
respect to prison conditions “until such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a). The failure to exhaust is an affirmative
defense on which the defendant bears the burden of proof.
Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006).
“To exhaust remedies, a prisoner must file complaints
and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's
administrative rules require.” Pozo v.
McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002).
“[A] prisoner who does not properly take each step
within the administrative process has failed to exhaust state
remedies.” Id. at 1024.
inmates are only required to exhaust administrative remedies
that are “available.” Woodford v. Ngo,
548 U.S. 81, 102 (2006). The availability of a remedy is not
a matter of what appears “on paper, ” but rather
whether the process was in actuality available for the
prisoner to pursue. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 684
(7th Cir. 2006). Thus, when prison staff hinder an
inmate's ability to use the administrative process, such
as by failing to provide him with the necessary forms,
administrative remedies are not considered
“available.” Id. In essence,
“[p]rison officials may not take unfair advantage of
the exhaustion requirement . . . and a remedy becomes
‘unavailable' if prison employees do not respond to
a properly filed grievance or otherwise use affirmative
misconduct to prevent a prisoner from exhausting.”
Dole, 438 F.3d at 809.
Henckel argues she is entitled to summary judgment because
West did not submit any grievances specifically against her
as required by the grievance procedure. The purpose of the
grievance process is to alert officials to a problem so
action can be taken to remedy the problem. Maddox v.
Love, 655 F.3d 709, 722 (7th Cir. 2011). Proper
exhaustion of administrative remedies means that “the
grievances must contain the sort of information that the
administrative system requires.” Strong v.
David, 297 F.3d 646, 649 (7th Cir. 2002). “When
the administrative rulebook is silent, a grievance suffices
if it alerts the prison to the nature of the wrong for which
redress is sought.” Id. at 650.
the grievance procedure sets forth a number of grievable
subjects, it demands no particular information from the
aggrieved. More significantly, it does not require inmates to
identify a specific individual as a responsible party. As a
result, Nurse Henckel cannot prevail on the exhaustion issue
merely by showing that West never named her in a grievance.
Additionally, rather than provide the jail grievance logs,
Nurse Henckel merely suggests that her inability to recall
West's grievance means that he did not file one. Though
there are circumstances in which this inference might be
appropriate, here, Nurse Henckel has not established that she
would necessarily have knowledge of any such grievances. For
example, this inference might be reasonable if she also
attested that she reviewed all medical grievances at the St.
Joseph County Jail in 2017.
Henckel further argues that West has not shown that he
proceeded to the next step of the grievance process by filing
another grievance to be forwarded to the jail commander. She
argues that, instead, West states that he “appealed
directly to the warden, ” which does not comply with
the grievance procedure. ECF 42 at 5. Significantly, Nurse
Henckel, not West, bears the burden of proof regarding the
exhaustion issue. See Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d
804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). Moreover, though Nurse Henckel
argues that West's statement is essentially an admission
that he did not proceed to the next step of the grievance
procedure, I do not construe West's statement as such.
This statement is ambiguous as it may very well be referring
to West's submission of a second grievance with the pod
deputy addressed to the jail commander. Absent a clearer
statement, I cannot conclude that West has made such an
Henckel also argues that West could not have completed the
grievance process during the forty-seven days between August
2, 2017, when she allegedly denied West medication, and
September 18, 2017, when he filed the complaint. She suggests
that completing the grievance process within forty-seven days
would be impossible. However, the record contains no evidence
to support this line of reasoning, and completing the
grievance process within forty-seven days seems entirely
Nurse Henckel has not shown that West did not comply with the
grievance procedure. Additionally, Nurse Henckel has not
shown that she or any other staff member complied with the
grievance procedure by providing West with a written
response. Therefore, Nurse Henckel has not demonstrated that