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Phillips v. Sammons

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

January 11, 2018

REGINALD PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. WALTER SAMMONS, Defendant.

          Dlott, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Karen L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Reginald Phillips, an inmate at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility ("SOCF") proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that prison officials used excessive force against him and were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See Doc. 5). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs motion for summary judgment (Doc. 15) and defendant's motion for summary judgment and opposition to plaintiffs motion for summary judgment (Doc. 23), to which plaintiff has not responded.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). A grant of summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Satterfield v. Tennessee, 295 F.3d 611, 615 (6th Cir. 2002). The Court must evaluate the evidence, and all inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Satterfwld, 295 F.3d at 615; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Little Caesar Enters., Inc. v. OPPC, LLC, 219 F.3d 547, 551 (6th Cir. 2000).

         The trial judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The trial court need not search the entire record for material issues of fact, Street v. J. C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th Cir. 1989), but must determine "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. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. "In response to a properly supported summary judgment motion, the non-moving party 'is required to present some significant probative evidence which makes it necessary to resolve the parties' differing versions of the dispute at trial.'" Maston v. Montgomery Cty. Jail Med. Staff Pers., 832 F.Supp.2d 846, 849 (S.D. Ohio 2011) (quoting Sixty Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         Because plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his filings are liberally construed. Spotts v. United States, 429 F.3d 248, 250 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (stating that the Court holds pleadings of pro se litigants to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers)); Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999) (pro se plaintiffs enjoy the benefit of a liberal construction of their pleadings and filings). However, a party's status as a pro se litigant does not alter his duty to support his factual assertions with admissible evidence. Maston, 832 F.Supp.2d at 851-52 (citing Viergutz v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 375 Fed.Appx. 482, 485 (6th Cir. 2010)). When opposing a motion for summary judgment, a pro se party cannot rely on allegations or denials in unsworn filings. Id. (citing Viergutz, 375 Fed.Appx. at 485).

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         A. Legal Standard

         Exhaustion of administrative remedies "is mandatory under the [Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA")] and .. . unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)). "[A] prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility" is barred from filing a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "or any other Federal law . .. until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § I997e(a). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter, 534 U.S. at 532.

         "A prisoner's failure to exhaust his intra-prison administrative remedies prior to filing suit 'is an affirmative defense under the PLRA.'" Surles v. Andison, 678 F.3d 452, 455 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Jones, 549 U.S. at 216). "[T]he failure to exhaust 'must be established by the defendants.'" Id. (quoting Napier v. Laurel Cty., Ky., 636 F.3d 218, 225 (6th Cir. 2011)). Thus, defendants bear the burden of proof on exhaustion. Id. Because defendants bear the burden of persuasion on exhaustion, their "initial summary judgement burden is 'higher in that [they] must show that the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.'" Id. at 455-56 (quoting Cockrel v. Shelby Cty. Sch. Dist., 270 F.3d 1036, 1056 (6th Cir. 2001) (in turn quoting 11 James William Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 56.13[1], at 56-138 (3d ed. 2000))).

         The PLRA exhaustion requirement means prisoners must carry out "proper exhaustion" of a grievance. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). "To properly exhaust a claim, prisoners must tak[e] advantage of each step the prison holds out for resolving the claim internally and by following the 'critical procedural rules' of the prison's grievance process to permit prison officials to review and, if necessary, correct the grievance 'on the merits' in the first instance." Reed-Bey v. Pramstaller, 603 F.3d 322, 324 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90). "Proper exhaustion [further] demands compliance with an agency's deadlines. . . ." Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90. Proper exhaustion serves the necessary interest of providing "fair notice of the alleged mistreatment or misconduct that forms the basis of the constitutional or statutory claim made against a defendant in a prisoner's complaint." LaFountain v. Martin, 334 Fed.Appx. 738, 740 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Bell v. Konteh, 450 F.3d 651, 654 (6th Cir. 2006)).

         The procedure established for resolving inmate complaints in Ohio, codified in Ohio Admin. Code § 5120-9-31, involves a three-step process. First, the inmate is required to file an informal complaint with the direct supervisor of the staff member within fourteen days of the event giving rise to the complaint. Ohio Admin. Code § 5120-9-31(K)(1). Second, if the inmate is unsatisfied with the response to his informal complaint he may file a formal grievance with the inspector of institutional services at his institution of confinement. Ohio Admin. Code § 5120-9-31(K)(2). The inspector of institutional services is required to provide a written response to the inmate's grievance within fourteen calendar days of receipt of the grievance. Id. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the response, he may undertake the third step of the grievance process and file an appeal to the office of chief inspector of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC") within fourteen days of the disposition of the formal grievance, Ohio Admin. Code § 5120-9-31(K)(3).

         B. Resolution

         Defendant argues that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because he completed only the first of three steps required under Ohio law. (Doc. 23 at 13). Defendant cites to plaintiffs complaint where he admits to only ...


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