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Miller v. Mellisa Nurse

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

August 7, 2018

MICHAEL MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
MELLISA Nurse (CIF Defendant), JOHNSON Nurse (CIF Defendant), DAWSON Nurse (CIF Defendant), OWENS Mr., Medical (CIF Defendant), LISA Nurse (CIF Defendant), Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael Miller, an inmate at the Correctional Industrial Facility (CIF), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Miller alleges that on June 9, 2017, he suffered a fall in the cafeteria and hurt his back, neck, heard, wrist, and knee, but failed to receive any medical treatment from Nurse Mellisa, Nurse Johnson, Nurse Dawson, Mr. Owens, and Nurse Lisa. See Dkt. No. 1; Dkt. No. 4. The Court screened his complaint and permitted his Eighth Amendment claims against the defendants to proceed. Dkt. No. 4.

         The defendants move for summary judgment on Mr. Miller's claims as against Nurse Lisa Ball, DON James Owens, and Dr. Loretta Dawson, arguing that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against these individuals as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) before filing this lawsuit. The defendants do not dispute that Mr. Miller successfully exhausted all administrative remedies regarding his allegations against defendants Nurse Melissa Lawrence and Nurse Jill Johnson.

         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). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying” designated evidence which “demonstrate[s] 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 non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations. Instead, “[t]o successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Trask-Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P., 534 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). “The non-movant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         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 “[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.” Porter, 534 U.S. 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).

         “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.” Id. at 90-91; 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 Mr. Miller. 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).

         “This circuit has taken a strict approach to exhaustion.” Wilborn v. Ealey, 881 F.3d 998, 1004 (7th Cir. 2018). “An inmate must comply with the administrative grievance process that the State establishes, at least as long as it is actually available to the inmate.” Id.

         II. Statement of Facts

         The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standard set forth above. That is, this statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Mr. Miller as the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         Robert Stafford is employed at CIF as the Grievance Specialist. In this position, he oversees the grievances process of all medical and non-medical grievances by inmates at CIF. Mr. Stafford is the custodian of the grievance records maintained by CIF, which include grievance documents filed by inmates as well as responses and appeals served by IDOC staff. As such, he has access to all inmate grievance documentation. Mr. Stafford is also knowledgeable regarding the process ...


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