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Smith v. Wexford Medical Co.

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

October 22, 2019

LOWELL B. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD MEDICAL COMPANY, Defendant.

          ENTRY GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON DEFENDANT'S AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE OF EXHAUSTION

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE.

         On December 3, 2018, Plaintiff Lowell Smith filed his original complaint alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at the Plainfield Correctional Facility. Specifically, he alleged that in October 2018, Wexford and its employees refused to provide treatment to him for Hepatitis C.

         Defendant Wexford Medical Company (properly known as “Wexford of Indiana, LLC;” hereinafter referred to as “Wexford”) seeks dismissal of this action through summary judgment on the basis that Mr. Smith failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), before filing this lawsuit. Mr. Smith responded. Wexford was given a period of time in which to file a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment or to otherwise comply with the Entry of April 29, 2019. No. further reply was submitted.

         For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment, dkt. [31], is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). “A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Daugherty v. Page, 906 F.3d 606, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to “scour every inch of the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 573-74 (7th Cir. 2017).

         II. Undisputed Facts

         Applying the standard set forth above, the following facts are undisputed.

         Mr. Smith is an inmate in the custody of Plainfield Correctional Facility and the the Indiana Department of Correction's (IDOC) offender grievance process is available to him. Dkt. 32 at ¶ 3. The purpose of the offender grievance process is to provide administrative means by which inmates may resolve concerns and complaints related to the conditions of their confinement at their current institution. Id. The grievance procedures at the Plainfield Correctional Facility are noted in the inmate handbook and are provided to inmates upon their arrival at the Plainfield Correctional Facility as well as available to them in both Law Libraries in the facility. Id.

         The grievance process consists of four stages. Id. at ¶ 4. First, an offender must attempt to resolve the grievance informally through officials at the facility. The informal grievance process is interactive and requires the offender to communicate and work with staff for an appropriate period of time, along with giving staff a reasonable period of time to respond to the grievance. Id. at ¶ 4(a).

         If the informal grievance process is unsuccessful, the offender must file a Level 1 formal grievance. This includes the submission of a Level 1 Grievance Form to the facility's Grievance Specialist. Dkt. 32 at ¶ 4(b).

         Once a finding has been given to the Level 1 formal grievance, the offender may then decide if the grievance has been satisfied. If the decision made on the Level 1 grievance is not satisfactory, he may ...


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