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Hemingway v. Shelton

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

April 12, 2019

LAMON TANEAL HEMINGWAY, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CALEB SHELTON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (#51), plaintiff's motion for leave to file exhibits (#54), and defendants' motion for summary judgment (#55).[1] For the reasons set forth below, this Court will GRANT defendants' motion while treating it as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Porter v. Sturm, 781 F.3d 448, 452-453 (8th Cir. 2015). Therefore, this matter will be DISMISSED without prejudice and all other motions will be DENIED AS MOOT.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The parties agree on the following facts.[3]

         During the relevant time period, plaintiff was an inmate at Missouri's Southeast Correctional Center (SECC). On November 16, 2016, plaintiff was placed in a cell with fellow inmate Theodis Hill, at which point plaintiff declared to defendants Shelton and Fields that Hill “was his enemy.” Plaintiff requested an “enemy declaration form” and Fields left to retrieve one for him. Plaintiff then continued to protest his cell assignment to Shelton. Shelton directed plaintiff to place his hands in the food port door of the cell so that plaintiff's wrist restraints could be removed. Plaintiff refused to relinquish his wrist restraints, prompting Shelton's use of a mechanical tether to pull plaintiff's hands through the food port door. Fields then radioed for help from their commander, Sergeant Proffer. When Proffer arrived, plaintiff became compliant and allowed Shelton to remove the wrist restraints. Plaintiff was seen by a nurse a few minutes later, who determined that plaintiff suffered “a minor abrasion to his left wrist, for which no treatment was given.”

         The parties' stories diverge at this point. Plaintiff states that he was “assaulted later by offender Hill.” In support, he cites generally to his own amended complaint and defendants' answer. In paragraph 37 of the amended complaint, it is alleged that Hill “punched plaintiff in his face, ” to which defendants answered-at the time-that they were “without sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny [that] allegation.” In moving for summary judgment, defendants now state that medical records show plaintiff reported no injuries following the night he spent with Hill. They also cite their own affidavits in explaining “Theodis Hill did not injure [plaintiff].” A review of these affidavits, however, indicates only that they did not harm plaintiff through the purported “use of force”-to say nothing of what happened in a failure-to-protect-type context when plaintiff was left alone with Hill following their departure from the cell wing.

         Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges what amounts to two counts: excessive force and failure-to-protect. Defendants argue summary judgment should be awarded to them on a number of grounds, including that plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his claims and that the facts simply do not sufficiently support each element of plaintiff's claims. Defendants also argue they are entitled to qualified immunity.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Court finds it need only address the issue of administrative exhaustion, as that issue is outcome determinative. “An inmate must exhaust all available administrative remedies before bringing a § 1983 suit.” Porter v. Sturm, 781 F.3d 448, 452-453 (8th Cir. 2015). When exhaustion is lacking, the Eighth Circuit has indicated the court should refraining from opining on the merits of summary judgment and should, instead, simply dismiss the case without prejudice. Id. at 452-453 (finding plaintiff failed to exhaust, stating that dismissal without prejudice is therefore mandatory, and vacating summary judgment while affirming dismissal with instructions on remand to make it without prejudice); Barbee v. Corr. Med. Servs., 394 Fed.Appx. 337, 337 (8th Cir. 2010) (affirming dismissal without prejudice but vacating grant of summary judgment).

         Here, the amended complaint makes clear that plaintiff did nothing to engage the administrative grievance process related to his claims. He checked a box admitting as much on page 2:

         III. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES:

         A. Is there a prisoner grievance procedure at the institution in which you are incarcerated?

         YES [√] NO [ ]

         B. Have you presented this grievance system the facts which are at ...


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