United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND
DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Christopher A. Stanton, an inmate at the Wabash Valley
Correctional Facility (WVCF), brings this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Stanton alleged that Dr. Bertsch
violated his Eighth Amendment rights by prescribing him
Depakote but failing to monitor his health such that the
medication depleted his white blood cell count to zero and
failing to maintain an adequate supply of Mr. Stanton's
medications for night terrors, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
Mr. Stanton also alleged that Wexford has a pattern and
policy of not checking to see if their doctors are trained
properly, doing everything as cheaply as possible, not
maintaining an adequate supply of medication, and refusing to
provide proper health care to its patients.
defendants move for summary judgment on Mr. Stanton's
claims arguing that he failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA) before filing this lawsuit. For the following reasons,
the motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is
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). 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).
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).
“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).
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
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).
the defendants' burden to establish that the
administrative process was available to Mr. Stanton. 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).
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.”
Statement of Facts
Stanton is an inmate at WVCF and has been at all times
relevant to his claims in this case. The Indiana Department
of Correction (IDOC) has an Offender Grievance Process - IDOC
Policy and Administrative Procedure 00-02-301, Offender
Grievance Process - which is intended to permit inmates to
resolve concerns and complaints relating to their conditions
of confinement and a range of other issues and complaints
prior to filing suit in court. See dkt. 41-3.
Wellington is employed at WVCF as the Grievance Specialist.
In this position, he oversees the grievances process of all
medical and non-medical grievances by inmates at WVCF. Mr.
Wellington is the custodian of the grievance records
maintained by WVCF, 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. Wellington is also ...