United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendant Megan Crowe's
motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleges that he was
attacked by a fellow inmate and then maced by correctional
officers on January 29, 2019, while he was incarcerated at
Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri.
Plaintiff claims that he suffered injuries and requested
medical attention, but that the prison's nurse, defendant
Crowe, refused to properly examine him. Instead, he alleges
that defendant Crowe looked at him through the cell door
window, told him there was nothing seriously wrong with him,
and then advised him to submit a sick call request. Plaintiff
alleges that he then submitted numerous sick call requests
but they were denied or destroyed by defendant Crowe. In his
pro se complaint brought under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, plaintiff contends that defendant Crowe was
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical
Crowe moves for the dismissal of plaintiff's claim
against her for failure to properly exhaust his
administrative remedies. Because there is a genuine dispute
as to whether plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his claim
against defendant Crowe relating to medical care, defendant
Crowe's motion will be denied.
Governing Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the facts and all
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, the record “shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “Once a party
moving for summary judgment has made a sufficient showing,
the burden rests with the non-moving party to set forth
specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that
a genuine issue of material fact exists.” Nat'l
Bank of Comm. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 607 (8th
non-moving party “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586.
“They must show there is sufficient evidence to support
a jury verdict in their favor.” Nat'l
Bank, 165 F.3d at 607 (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). “A case
founded on speculation or suspicion is insufficient to
survive a motion for summary judgment.” Id.
(citing Metge v. Baehler, 762 F.2d 621, 625 (8th
Cir. 1985)). “When opposing parties tell two different
stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the
record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court
should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of
ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a), an inmate must exhaust all available administrative
remedies before bringing a § 1983 suit. See Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007); Burns v. Eaton,
752 F.3d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 2014). Available remedies are
“capable of use for the accomplishment of a purpose:
immediately utilizable [and] accessible.” Miller v.
Norris, 247 F.3d 736, 740 (8th Cir. 2001) (finding
exhaustion does not require use of “all ”
properly exhaust administrative remedies, a prisoner must
complete the administrative review process in accordance with
the procedural rules as defined by the applicable prison
grievance process itself. Jones, 549 U.S. at 218-19.
An inmate satisfies § 1997e(a) by pursuing “the
prison grievance process to its final stage” to
“an adverse decision on the merits.”
Burns, 752 F.3d at 1141. It does not matter that the
inmate “subjectively believed that there was no point
in his pursuing administrative remedies.” Lyon v.
Vande Krol, 305 F.3d 806, 809 (8th Cir. 2002) (en banc).
Nonexhaustion is an affirmative defense, and defendants have
the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion.
Jones, 549 U.S. at 211-12. Exhaustion is
“mandatory” and unexhausted claims must be
dismissed without prejudice. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S.
199, 211 (2007).
are excused from exhausting remedies when officials have
prevented prisoners from utilizing the procedures, or when
officials themselves have failed to comply with the grievance
procedures.” Porter v. Sturm, 781 F.3d 448,
451 (8th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). “[A] remedy that prison officials prevent a
prisoner from ‘utilizing' is not an
‘available' remedy under § 1997(e)(a) . . .
.” Miller, 247 F.3d at 740. Plaintiff must
present some evidence, other than mere conclusory statements,
to demonstrate that he was precluded from fully exhausting
his administrative remedies. See Gibson v. Weber,
431 F.3d 339, 341 (8th Cir. 2005).
inmate such as plaintiff who wishes to complain about his
treatment while at Southeast Correctional Center must comply
with the three-step grievance procedure for the Missouri
Department of Corrections. First, an inmate must file an
Informal Resolution Request (IRR) within 15 days of the
alleged incident. If not resolved informally, the
correctional center should respond as soon as practicable but
within 40 days of receipt of the IRR. If the inmate receives
an unfavorable response to his IRR, he must proceed to the
second step and file a formal grievance within seven days of
the denial of his IRR. Once again, the correctional center
has 40 days to respond to the grievance. If the inmate
receives an unsatisfactory response to his grievance, the
third and file step of the grievance process is for the
inmate to file an appeal. The appeal must be filed within
seven days of the denial of the grievance, and any appeal
should be resolved within 100 days of receipt. All three
steps are necessary to exhaust the grievance procedure.
support of her motion for summary judgment, defendant Crowe
states that plaintiff has filed only one IRR, IRR
SECC-19-567, that possibly relates to the medical treatment
plaintiff received from defendant Crowe after the January 29,
2019 incident. IRR SECC-19-567 was filed by plaintiff on May
28, 2019 and alleges elbow pain resulting from being attacked
on January 29, 2019. The IRR was denied on August 15, 2019,
and plaintiff acknowledged that the response to his IRR was
unsatisfactory on August 21, 2019. After the denial of IRR
SECC-19- 567, plaintiff did not proceed to step 2 of the
grievance process by filing a formal grievance. According to
defendant Crowe, summary judgment is appropriate because even
if IRR SECC-19-567 were timely and specifically named
defendant Crowe, plaintiff still failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies respecting his medical care by
failing to timely file a formal grievance as required by step
two of the grievance process.
careful review of the entire record, the Court concludes that
summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion is inappropriate
at this time because there remains a genuine factual dispute
as to whether plaintiff is excused from the exhaustion
requirement. In his verified pro se complaint,
plaintiff alleges that he attempted to address his complaints
against defendant Crowe (and other defendants) through the
prison's administrative grievance process but that he was
denied access to available administrative remedies. Plaintiff
also alleges in his verified complaint that he wrote the
warden about the January 29, 2019 incident and being denied
access to the grievance process. Exhibit A to the verified
complaint purports to be a letter from plaintiff to the
warden informing him of the alleged incident, including that
defendant Crowe “denied me serious medical treatment
for my injuries.” Exhibit A also states that plaintiff
is being denied access to the grievance process so he is
unable to file an IRR. Exhibit A is undated, but the
complaint was filed on May 16, 2019, before the date of IRR
basis of the record before the Court at this time, the Court
cannot conclude that plaintiff failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies with respect to his complaints about
the denial of medical care by defendant Crowe. While it
appears that plaintiff did not fully exhaust his
administrative remedies with respect to IRR SECC-19-567,
there remains a genuine dispute as to whether plaintiff
attempted to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to
filing IRR SECC-19-567 but was denied access to the grievance
process by prison officials. If true, then plaintiff could be
excused from exhausting his administrative remedies. See
Miller, 247 F.3d at 740. As plaintiff has presented more
than just a conclusory statement that he was precluded from
exhausting his administrative remedies and defendant Crowe
has presented no evidence demonstrating the absence of ...