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Wilson v. Ferguson

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

June 8, 2017

JAMES WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRETT FERGUSON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Terry Russell's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 66.) The Motion has been fully briefed and is ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff James Wilson filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action asserting claims of deliberate indifference and medical negligence against various Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) officials and medical personnel. Wilson was appointed counsel in March 2016, and in his Fifth Amended Complaint, he alleges the following.

         At all relevant times, Wilson was incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). Russell was the Warden at the ERDCC. On December 26, 2013, Wilson experienced a sudden and severe headache and severe pain in the vicinity of his left eye. His symptoms matched those he had experienced several years ago, when he suffered a brain aneurysm. (ECF No. 64.) Over the next few days, Wilson saw ERDCC medical staff on several occasions. The medical staff told Wilson that there was nothing wrong with him, and although he explained that he had previously suffered a brain aneurysm, he was denied further evaluation and treatment and was told to return to his housing unit. On December 30, 2013, medical staff referred Wilson to have a CT scan at a local hospital. The next day, Wilson was informed that the scan revealed no bleeding. On January 1, 2014, Wilson saw an optometrist. The optometrist determined that Wilson had a brain aneurysm and immediately referred him to a neurosurgeon. Approximately one week later, Wilson underwent a craniotomy.

         With respect to Defendant Russell, Wilson specifically alleges that between the onset of his symptoms and December 30, 2013, he wrote a letter to Russell informing Russell of his medical condition and of the medical staff's refusal to evaluate or treat him, and that Russell did not intervene. Wilson claims that Russell was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. (ECF No. 64.)

         As mentioned above, Russell now moves for summary judgment. Russell argues that Wilson failed to exhaust the required administrative remedies, and that he is entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF Nos. 66, 67.)

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be granted if the movant shows that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the record. See Hott v. Hennepin Cnty., Minn., 260 F.3d 901, 904-05 (8th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Material facts are determined by substantive law, and factual disputes which are irrelevant or collateral do not preclude summary judgment. See Id. at 248. When a summary judgment motion is properly supported by evidence, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must set forth affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 256-57. Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. See Armour & Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir. 1993).

         DISCUSSION

         Russell argues that Wilson failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) by not timely filing an Informal Resolution Request (“IRR”), and by failing to include sufficient detail in his IRR allegations.

         The PLRA requires inmates complaining about prison conditions to exhaust prison grievance remedies before initiating a lawsuit. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[T]he benefits of exhaustion…include allowing a prison to address complaints about the program it administers before being subject to suit, reducing litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved, and improving litigation that does occur by leading to the preparation of a useful record.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219 (2007) (citations omitted). It is the grievance procedure requirements of the correctional facility, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion. See Burns v. Eaton, 752 F.3d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 2014).

         The MDOC has a uniform grievance procedure for all Missouri prisons, including the ERDCC. The grievance procedure consists of three stages. At the first stage, a prisoner must present his complaint by filing an IRR within fifteen days of the incident giving rise to the complaint. Each IRR is limited to one grievable issue, and in completing an IRR, a prisoner must provide “whatever material/information is available to him.” The IRR is then reviewed and a written response is given to the prisoner. At the second stage, a prisoner who is dissatisfied with the response to the IRR may file an Offender Grievance within seven days of receiving the IRR response. If the institution's response to the Offender Grievance is not satisfactory, the prisoner may, within seven days of receiving said response, ...


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