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Jones v. Corizon Medical Services

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

June 2, 2017




         This case comes before the Court on five motions - three by the plaintiff Rodney Douglas Jones (#39, #40, #42) and the other two, including a motion for summary judgment, by defendants Eddie Hartline and Dr. Mina Massey (#30, #47).

         I. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

         Plaintiff asks this Court to reverse its decision that allowed the defendants to file summary judgment documents under seal (#39). In his motion, plaintiff contends that the defendants only sealed the documents “they feel will be damaging to [defendants'] case, by using falsehood and manipulative tactics.” However, plaintiff does not allege that he did not have the documents that were filed under seal. Further, it appears that plaintiff did have possession of most, if not all, of these sealed documents as he attached the same documents to his own responses to defendants' motions (see #39 & #40). The Court finds no reason to un-seal these documents. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration (#39) is denied.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery

         Plaintiff requests that the Court order the defendants to produce certain documents to plaintiff (#42). The defendants responded, claiming that the defendants had not yet received any discovery requests from plaintiff and to the extent that plaintiff's motion to compel discovery constituted a discovery request, that the defendants would comply in accordance with the federal rules of civil procedure. Based on defendants' response and the lack of a reply by plaintiff arguing otherwise, the Court holds that plaintiff's motion to compel discovery is moot.

         III. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Exhaustion[1]

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) in the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). Within his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit, he alleges constitutional violations against the defendants, employees of Corizon Medical Services who work at SECC, for allegedly providing plaintiff with inadequate medical care. Plaintiff's complaints arise from treatment, or lack thereof, of plaintiff's broken hands and subsequent premature release into the general population following his surgery. Plaintiff contends that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendants have moved for summary judgment based on exhaustion (#30) because they claim plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”).

         B. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Assoc. Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 1983).

         Prisoners incarcerated at SECC are subject to the MDOC Grievance Procedure, which provides that a prisoner must file an Informal Resolution Request (“IRR”) within 15 days of an alleged incident. If an inmate is unsatisfied with the IRR response, the inmate may file an Offender Grievance within seven calendar days of his receipt of the IRR response. If an inmate wishes to appeal the grievance response, the inmate must then submit an Inmate Grievance Appeal within seven calendar days. The inmate must comply with each requirement, including the deadlines, to sufficiently “exhaust” the inmate's administrative remedy under the PLRA to bring suit in federal court.

         The PLRA states that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a). It is uncontested that the PLRA applies in this case. This mandatory language - “an inmate ‘shall' bring ‘no action' . . . absent exhaustion of available administrative remedies” - contains “one significant qualifier: the remedies must indeed be ‘available.'” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016). To be available, the remedy must be “‘capable of use for the accomplishment of a purpose, ' and that which ‘is accessible or may be obtained.'” Id. at 1858. In short, an inmate “must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable ones.” Id. Here, the MDOC Grievance Procedure provides inmates, like plaintiff, with administrative remedies that must be exhausted before filing suit in federal court.

         C. ...

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