United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
Jeffery Capler, Jr., an Indiana prisoner, filed this civil
action on October 17, 2017. Mr. Capler alleges that his
Eighth Amendment rights were violated at Wabash Valley
Correctional Facility. Specifically, he alleges that Dr.
Samuel Byrd, Nurse Regina Robinson, Nurse Anne M. Conner, and
Ms. Mary Rankin denied him medication and treatment for the
excruciating pain in his left shoulder, arm, and hand. The
lack of treatment allegedly caused nerve damage and numbness
to his shoulder, arm and hand. These events occurred from
December 4, 2016, through September 22, 2017.
defendants now seek summary judgment under Rule 56(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They argue that the claims
alleged against them are barred under the exhaustion
provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. That provision
requires a prisoner to first exhaust his available
administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit in court. Mr.
Capler argues in response that he attempted to exhaust his
administrative remedies, but prison officials did not allow
him to complete the process. For the reasons explained below,
there are material facts in dispute and the motion for
summary judgment, Dkt. No. 28, 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 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).
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 “[n]o action
shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under
section 1983 . . . until such administrative remedies as are
available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e;
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 requirement to exhaust provides
“that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a
supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed
administrative remedy has been exhausted.” Woodford
v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006) (citation omitted).
Exhaustion of available administrative remedies
“‘means using all steps that the agency holds
out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the
issues on the merits).'” Id. at 90
(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024
(7th Cir. 2002)). Proper use of the facility's grievance
system requires a prisoner “to file complaints and
appeals in the place, and at the time [as] the prison's
administrative rules require.” Pozo, 286 F.3d
at 1025; see also Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804,
809 (7th Cir. 2006).
exhaustion is an affirmative defense, “the burden of
proof is on the prison officials.” Kaba v.
Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 680 (7th Cir. 2006). So here, the
defendants bear the burden of demonstrating that Mr. Capler
failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies
before he filed this suit. Id. at 681; see also
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
Statement of Material Facts
Department of Corrections' Grievance Process
October 17, 2017, Mr. Capler filed this civil action. On
October 20, 2017, he was transferred to another facility.
Capler was incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility during the time period relevant to his Complaint.
The older version of the Offender Grievance Process went into
effect on April 5, 2015. The current grievance process went
into effect on October 1, 2017. The defendants do not point to
any authority or evidence that suggests which grievance
process Mr. Capler was supposed to follow.
current grievance process has three steps: (1) a formal
attempt to solve a problem or concern following unsuccessful
attempts at informal resolution; (2) a written appeal to the
Warden/designee; and (3) a written appeal to the Department
Grievance Manager. The prior version required the following
three steps: (1) an informal attempt to solve a problem or
address a concern; (2) submission of a written form outlining
the problem or concern and other supporting information, and
the response to that submission; and (3) a written appeal of
the response to a higher authority and the response to that
policy made several changes to the prior version, including
permitting different types of evidence showing inmate
attempts to informally resolve issues before being permitted
to file a formal grievance, shortening the time allowed for
an inmate to file a grievance from 20 to 10 business days
after the incident, and adding an intermediate appeal level
with the Warden or designee. However, both the prior and
current version required informal attempts to resolve an
issue before filing a formal grievance. Specifically, the
current IDOC policy provides that, before an inmate can begin
the grievance process, he is required to attempt to resolve a
complaint informally and provide evidence (e.g.,
“To/From” correspondence, State Form 36395,
“Request for Interview”) of the attempt. The
prior policy required an inmate to discuss the complaint with
the appropriate staff member and obtain State Form 52897,
“Offender Complaint-Informal Process Level”
within five business days from the date of the incident.
current IDOC Grievance policy provides that, if an inmate is
unable to resolve his complaint informally, he may file a
Formal Grievance by submitting to the Grievance Specialist a
completed Form 45471, “OFFENDER GRIEVANCE, ” no
later than ten business days from the date of the incident
giving rise to the complaint or concern. The facility
Grievance Specialist must either return an unacceptable form
or provide a receipt for an accepted form. If an offender
does not receive either a receipt or a rejected form from the
Grievance Specialist within five business days of submitting
it, the offender shall notify the Grievance Specialist ...