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Rachel v. Troutt

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 6, 2018

JEFFREY TROUTT, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon T. Erwin, Doc. 122, recommending that the Court grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 120, due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff, a prisoner formerly housed at the James Crabtree Correctional Center (“JCCC”), filed an objection to the Report, Doc. 123, which warrants de novo review. Plaintiff maintains an Eighth Amendment claim against four Defendants in their individual capacity:[1] Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Troutt, Correctional Health Services Administrator (“CHSA”) Tami Grogan, Warden Janet Dowling, and Medical Services Administrator Genese McCoy. Plaintiff alleges that they were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Complaint, Doc. 1. Construing Plaintiff's pro se pleadings liberally, Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007), the Court hereby grants Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion for the following reasons.

         I. Relevant Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue is ‘genuine' if there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way. . . . An issue of fact is ‘material' if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Macon v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 743 F.3d 708, 712-713 (10th Cir. 2014). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

         If satisfied, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Whitesel v. Sengenberger, 222 F.3d 861, 867 (10th Cir. 2000). The nonmoving party “may not rest upon mere allegations” in his pleading to satisfy this requirement. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256 (1986). Rather, Rule 56 “requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (1986).

         Plaintiff brings an Eighth Amendment claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which protects against violations of “right[s] secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States . . . committed . . . under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “In its prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual punishments, ' the Eighth Amendment places restraints on prison officials, who . . . must provide humane conditions of confinement; [they] must . . . ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-527 (1984)). In the medical care context, the Eighth Amendment requires that Plaintiff show Defendants' “deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). He must satisfy three elements: (1) objective seriousness, (2) a culpable state of mind, and (3) an “affirmative link” between a prison official's conduct and the constitutional violation. Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013).

         First, Plaintiff's medical need must be “sufficiently serious”-“one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, (1991)); Hunt v. Uphoff, 199 F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir. 1999) (quoting Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 575 (10th Cir. 1980) (quotation omitted)).

         The second requirement is subjective and requires an official's “‘deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03). This standard is equivalent to recklessness, or knowing disregard of a risk. Id. at 836-37. “[T]he official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837.

         Third, Plaintiff must allege an “affirmative link” between the official's conduct and the constitutional violation, consisting of “personal involvement” and “causation.” Schneider, 717 F.3d at 767. This requirement applies to supervisory defendants as well because even though “direct participation” is unnecessary, liability must “be predicated on a violation traceable to a defendant-official's ‘own individual actions.'” Pahls v. Thomas, 718 F.3d 1210, 1225 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676). Section 1983 “does not authorize liability under a theory of respondeat superior.” Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1164 (10th Cir. 2011). The “affirmative link between the supervisor and the constitutional violation” requires “more than ‘a supervisor's mere knowledge of his subordinate's' conduct.” Schneider, 717 F.3d at 767 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677).

         However, before Plaintiff can pursue Section 1983 relief in federal court, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) “requires timely and complete exhaustion of [available] administrative remedies . . . .” Brewer v. Mullin, 130 F. App'x 264, 265-66 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001); Jernigan v. Stuchell, 304 F.3d 1030, 1032 (10th Cir. 2002)). To do so, Plaintiff “had to comply ‘with [the Department of Corrections'] deadlines and other critical procedural rules.'” Craft v. Null, 543 F. App'x 778, 779-80 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006)). Substantial compliance is insufficient-Plaintiff “had to properly complete the grievance process and cure any deficiencies.” Id. (citing Jernigan, 304 F.3d at 1032). And even if Plaintiff completed the grievance process, the grievance must “provide[] enough information regarding the nature of the alleged wrong to enable prison officials to investigate and address his complaint.” Pfeil v. Lampert, 603 F. App'x 665, 671 (10th Cir. 2015).

Defendants . . . bear the burden of asserting and proving that the plaintiff did not utilize administrative remedies. . . . Once a defendant proves that a plaintiff failed to exhaust, however, the onus falls on the plaintiff to show that remedies were unavailable to him.

Tuckel v. Grover, 660 F.3d 1249, 1254 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007)).

         Turning to the ODOC's grievance process, Plaintiff must informally consult with the relevant staff and then follow three written steps before satisfying complete exhaustion: (1) designate a “Request to Staff” to “the appropriate staff member, detailing the issue/incident completely but briefly”; (2) if the issue remains unresolved, submit an “Offender Grievance Form” with the prior Request to Staff to the facility reviewing authority or, for medical grievances, the CHSA; (3) finally, appeal to the Administrative Review Authority (“ARA”). Special Report, Offender Grievance Process, Doc. 44-3, at 7- 14. “If alleged to be of an emergency or sensitive nature, the grievance will be screened to determine if it should be handled” as such.” Id. at 11-12. “A complaint of an emergency nature is one in which the complaint alleges irreparable harm or personal injury will occur and which the grievance process will be unable to address in a timely preventive manner.” Id. at 16. The reviewing authority will only grant expedited response if it deems the grievance satisfies this definition. Id. at 16-17.

         II. Discussion

         The Court must compare Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim to his past grievances in order to assess whether his grievances “provide[d] enough information regarding the nature of the alleged wrong to enable prison officials to investigate and address his complaint.” Pfeil, 603 F. App'x at 671; see also Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90.

         A. ...

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