United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR SANCTIONS AND DEFENDANTS' CROSS-MOTION FOR
MATTHEW P. BROOKMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lance Igou, has filed a motion for sanctions against the
remaining Defendants, Corizon Health, Inc., Megan Miller,
Hanna Winningham, and The Geo Group, Inc., pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. Igou argues Defendants violated the rule by
waiting over six weeks before withdrawing the failure to
exhaust defense, a delay which Plaintiff asserts is
unreasonable, inexcusable, and in violation of Rule 11.
(Docket No. 71 at ECF p. 4). Defendants respond that
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 is not a proper vehicle for the relief Igou
seeks and that, even if it was, Igou's request is
baseless. (Docket No. 72). As a result, Defendants
request cross sanctions also pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11.
Id. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned
recommends Igou's Motion for Sanctions (Docket No.
71) be denied and recommends Defendants' Cross
Motion for Sanctions (Docket No. 72) also be
August 24, 2017, Plaintiff brought this claim alleging
violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution, Indiana
Constitution, and for negligence related to his medical care
and treatment for an eye issue. (Docket No. 1). At
all times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff has been
incarcerated at the New Castle Correctional Facility.
Id. In Defendants' answers each pled the
affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative
remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”). (Docket No. 17; Docket No.
23; Docket No. 26). Specifically, Corizon,
Winningham, and Miller stated that “Plaintiff may have
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing
suit as required by the [PLRA].” (Docket No. 23 at
ECF p. 14, ¶ 7). The GEO Group, Inc.'s
affirmative defense stated, “Plaintiff may have failed
to exhaust his administrative remedies under the [PLRA]
before he filed suit herein.” (Docket No. 17 at ECF
p. 5, ¶ 3). Wexford of Indiana, LLC's
affirmative defense stated, “To the exten[t] Plaintiff
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, which are
available to him through the prison grievance procedure, his
claims are barred by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).”
(Docket No. 26 at ECF p. 12, ¶ 2).
November 28, 2017, the Court directed the Defendants to take
action on their exhaustion defense. (Docket No. 50).
Pursuant to the Entry, the Defendants had until February 16,
2018, to either (1) file a dispositive motion in support of
the exhaustion defense; (2) file a notice with the Court
specifically identifying the fact issue(s) that precluded
resolution of this affirmative defense via a dispositive
motion and request a Pavey hearing; (3) or file a
notice with the Court withdrawing the exhaustion defense.
Id. The Court stated that the exhaustion
“defense must be resolved before reaching the merits of
this case.” Id. However, the Court did not
explicitly stay the proceedings on the merits on this date.
November 30, 2017, Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Stay
Proceedings Pending Resolution of the Exhaustion Defense.
(Docket No. 52). After the motion was fully briefed, the
Court granted this request on December 20, 2017. (Docket No.
60). Each Defendant provided notice of the withdrawal of the
defense to the Court on or before February 16, 2018, in
compliance with the Court's Order. (Docket No. 61; Docket
No. 62; Docket No. 63).
Conclusions of Law A. Standard
has moved for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 11(b). Rule 11 enables courts to impose sanctions
on parties who violate its provision. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c).
Rule 11 imposes a duty on attorneys to inquire reasonably
into any court paper's viability before signing it.
Fred A. Smith Lumber Co. v. Edidin, 845 F.2d 750,
751 (7th Cir. 1988). Specifically, Rule 11(b) states:
(b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court
a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by
signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an
attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of
the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed
after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such
as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase
the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are
warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for
extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for
establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if
specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary
support after a reasonable opportunity for further
investigation or discovery; and (4) the denials of factual
contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if so
specifically identified are reasonably based on belief or a
lack of information.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). The Seventh Circuit has instructed
that “[t]he district court in analyzing a Rule 11
sanction claim should determine if there has been a
‘callous disregard for governing law or the procedures
of the court . . .'” Harlyn Sales Corp. Profit
Sharing Plan v. Kemper Fin. Servs.,9 F.3d 1263, 1269