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Baker v. Yates

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

October 8, 2019

JAMES YATES, et al., Defendants.


          James H. Payne United States District Judge

         Plaintiff is a pro se prisoner in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) who is incarcerated at Lawton Correctional Facility in Lawton, Oklahoma. He brings this action under the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations during his incarceration at Davis Correctional Facility (DCF), a private prison in Holdenville, Oklahoma. The defendants are James Yates, DCF Warden; Ray Larimer, DCF Health Service Administrator; and Dr. Sanders, DCF Physician. The Court has before it for consideration Plaintiff's complaint (Dkt. 1), a special report prepared by DCF officials at the direction of the Court, in accordance with Martinez v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317 (10th Cir. 1978) (Dkt. 17), Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 43), and Plaintiff's response to the motion (Dkt. 47).

         Plaintiff alleges his life has been placed in jeopardy “by the unconscionable /unjustifiable maleficent treatment; refusal to acknowledge documented medical issues; refusal to seek specialized [treatment] or follow recommended treatment ordered by a specialist when obtained.” (Dkt. 1 at 2). He claims that since his arrival at DCF, he has been subjected to long-term damage to his heart, brain function, and nervous system. In addition, he allegedly has been disfigured by scarring, and his nose has been broken, impairing his ability to breathe, rest, and smell. He also asserts his spine was subjected to increased damage because of uncontrolled falls associated with seizures. In addition, he allegedly has been subjected to years of emotional distress in his efforts to receive proper evaluations and treatment. Finally, he claims he has endured abuses from medical administrators, facility physicians, nurses, and security staff as the result of the deliberate indifference perpetrated upon him.

         Plaintiff alleges he arrived at DCF in July 2005. Prior to his incarceration at DCF, he had extensive evaluation, screening, and testing by a neurologist to determine the source of his severe neurological seizures and to determine how to best manage his seizures and the migraine headaches associated with them without causing an allergic reaction. He claims he was supposed to be monitored by a neurologist on a regular basis, with adjustments in his medication as needed. He complains that since arriving at DCF, his medication has been changed to his detriment and without consultation with a specialist, resulting in increased and more intense seizures.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. In making this determination, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. A party opposing a motion for summary judgment, however, may not simply allege there are disputed issues of fact; rather, the party must support its assertions by citing to the record or by showing the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Thus, the inquiry for this Court is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         Statute of Limitations

          Plaintiff's lengthy complaint consists of pages of mostly undated allegations concerning Defendants' alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The statute of limitations for a civil rights cause of action in Oklahoma is two years. Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1522 (10th Cir. 1988). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on any claims arising more than two years prior to the filing of this complaint.

         Plaintiff has not addressed this issue, with the exception of stating in his response to the motion that the two-year limitation “allows only a limited look at the problems endured and suffered through by Plaintiff at the hands of his providers.” (Dkt. 47 at 10-11). He has provided no additional dates to clarify his allegations.

         Here, the Court finds there is no genuine dispute as to the fact that all claims occurring more than two years prior to filing the complaining are barred, or that Defendants are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on this issue. Therefore, summary judgment is granted on the issue of the statute of limitations. Under the prisoner “mailbox rule” of Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270, 276 (1988), the complaint is considered to have been filed on September 29, 2017. (Dkt. 1 at 17). Therefore, all claims arising before September 29, 2015, are time barred and will not be considered.

         Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

          Plaintiff alleges Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Defendants assert Plaintiff failed to exhaust the administrative remedies for any of his claims. “No 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. § 1997e(a). Inmates are required to exhaust available administrative remedies, and suits filed before the exhaustion requirement is met must be dismissed. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740-41 (2001); Yousef v. Reno, 254 F.3d 1214, 1216 n.1 (10th Cir. 2001).

         “An inmate who begins the grievance process but does not complete it is barred from pursuing a § 1983 claim under PLRA for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.” Jernigan v. Stuchell, 304 F.3d 1030, 1032 (10th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). In deciding a motion to dismiss based on nonexhaustion, the Court can consider the administrative materials submitted by the parties. See Steele v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 355 F.3d 1204, 1212 (10th Cir. 2003), abrogated in part on other grounds, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         According to the DOC Offender Grievance Process, OP-090124, an inmate first must attempt to resolve his complaint informally by communicating with staff within three days of the incident. If that is unsuccessful, he may submit a Request to Staff (RTS) within seven calendar days of the incident, alleging only one issue per form. If the offender does not receive a response to his RTS within 30 calendar days of submission, he may submit a grievance to the Review Authority (warden's office), asserting only the issue of the lack of response to the RTS. If the complaint is not resolved after the response to the RTS, the offender then may file a grievance. If the grievance also does not resolve the issue, the inmate may appeal to the Administrative Review Authority (ARA) or the Medical Administrative Review Authority. The administrative process is exhausted only after all of these steps have been taken. (Dkt. 43-3).

         The record shows Plaintiff filed three grievances during the two years prior to his filing this complaint. The use of the administrative remedies process, however, did not exhaust his ...

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