Vanzant v. Morris et al
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 36 Partial Report and Recommendations; defts' 30 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART; pltf's claims of inadequate medical care are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; pl tf's claims re food contamination are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, with the exception of his individual-capacity claims against defts Eddie Turner and Charlotte Sanders; pltf's claims against defts in their official capacities are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Susan Webber Wright on 2/8/13. (vjt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MARK EDWARD VANZANT
ARTIE MORRIS, ET AL.
NO: 5:12CV00021 SWW
On January 13, 2012, Mark Edward Vanzant, an inmate confined in the Maximum
Security Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), commenced this action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he received food contaminated with foreign objects and
received inadequate medical care for medical problems that resulted from ingesting the
contaminated food. Plaintiff names eight ADC officers as defendants: Artie Morris, Eddie
Turner, Charlotte Sanders, Velma Brooks, Steve Outlaw, Barbara Montgomery, Jerry S. Jacks,
and Dustin Parker. Plaintiff sues Morris in his official capacity only, and he sues all other
defendants in their official and individual capacities.
Defendants moved for summary judgment (docket entry #30), asserting that Plaintiff
failed to satisfy the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) exhaustion requirement and that
Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims are barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. On
January 22, 2013, United States Magistrate Judge H. David Young issued a Partial
Recommended Disposition (docket entry #36), recommending that Defendants’ motion be
granted in part and denied in part. Judge Young finds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies with respect to his claims of inadequate medical care, and he
recommends that those claims be dismissed without prejudice. However, Judge Young
recommends that Plaintiff’s claims regarding food contamination proceed against all defendants.
Judge Young does not address Defendants’ argument regarding sovereign immunity.
Defendants have filed objections to the Partial Recommended Disposition (docket entry #39).
The time for filing objections has expired, and Plaintiff has not filed objections.
After careful review of the Partial Recommended Disposition and Defendants’
objections, as well as a de novo review of the record, the Court adopts Judge Young’s
recommendation that Plaintiff’s inadequate medical care claims be dismissed without prejudice
for failure to exhaust. However, the Court respectfully declines to adopt the remainder of the
Partial Recommended Disposition.
Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show 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). As a
prerequisite to summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate “an absence of evidence to
support the non-moving party’s case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
The non-moving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading but
must “come forward with ‘specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.’” Id. at 587 (quoting
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). “[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact;
(2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is,
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party.” RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM
Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995).
Pursuant to the PLRA, an inmate complaining about prison conditions must exhaust
administrative remedies before bringing suit.1 See 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a). To satisfy the
exhaustion requirement, an prisoner must follow the prison’s procedural rules governing inmate
grievances. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218, 127 S.Ct. 910, 923 (2007)(noting that the
“prison’s requirements, and not the PLRA . . . define the boundaries of proper exhaustion”).
Here, the applicable ADC grievance procedure, set forth under ADC Administrative
Directive 10-32 (“AD 10-32"),2 requires that a prisoner first submit an informal resolution form
stating his grievance. If the grievance is not resolved by way of informal resolution, AD 10-32
requires the prisoner to file a formal, unit-level grievance form “that must be specific as to the
complaint, date, place, personnel involved and how [the inmate] was affected.” AD 10-32
(Attach. I)(emphasis added). If the grievance is denied, AD 10-32 requires an appeal to the
Chief Deputy/Deputy Assistant. AD 10-32 provides: “Inmates are hereby advised that they
must exhaust their administrative remedies as to all defendants at all levels of the grievance
procedure before filing a Section 1983 lawsuit.” AR 10-32, § IV.N (emphasis added).
The PLRA provides: “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).
Defendants submitted a copy of the ADC’s Administrative Directive 10-32 along with
their motion for summary judgment. See docket entry #30-2 (Ex. C).
Judge Young recommends that Plaintiff’s claims asserting inadequate medical care be
dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defendants produced undisputed
evidence that Plaintiff exhausted only three grievances before he filed this lawsuit, and none of
those grievances contains allegations regarding a denial of medical care. Thus the Court agrees
that Plaintiff’s inadequate medical care claims should be dismissed without prejudice for failure
to exhaust administrative remedies.
Next, Judge Young finds that Plaintiff filed grievances regarding food contamination that
were accepted and decided on the merits and that “Plaintiff’s exhaustion of the issue of
contaminated meals precludes the entry of summary judgment in favor of any Defendants who
might not have been named in the grievance.” Docket entry #36, at 4(emphasis added).
Defendants contend that Plaintiff failed to follow the ADC grievance procedures with respect to
his claims involving food contamination. Specifically, they assert that Plaintiff’s grievances
name only two defendants joined in this lawsuit–Eddie Turner and Dustin Parker–and that
Plaintiff’s grievances concern allegations other than those set forth in the complaint.
The complaint contains the following allegations regarding food contamination:
On September 18, 2011, at lunch, Plaintiff overheard Defendant Sanders
“soliciting” affidavits from inmate witnesses in the event that she got in trouble
over “an unknown prank soon to take place.” Compl., at 7. Later at dinner,
Plaintiff noticed that his food smelled like feces, and he asked Defendant Sanders
for another tray, but she refused.
Plaintiff asked Defendant Brooks to “take photos of the [September 18, 2011]
incident,” but she refused. Compl., at 7.
Plaintiff wrote an informal resolution grievance regarding the September 18, 2011
incident, requesting the assistance of Defendant Turner, who deliberately ignored
After the September 18, 2011 “incident,” Plaintiff was placed in punitive
isolation, where he “went through the same complication with the morning
breakfast, and the same deprivation of rights with [Defendant] Morris.” Compl.,
During his stay in punitive isolation, Plaintiff received “gruel bars” that contained
cigarette filters and glass powder. See Compl., at 7.
Plaintiff asked Defendant Morris to “either send the tray back to the kitchen
management to retain another or . . . to retrieve a lieutenant,” and Morris refused.
Compl., at 9.
On September 18, 2011, Plaintiff submitted Grievance No. MX-11-01450, alleging that
“Corporal Coleman,” acting under the supervision of Defendant Turner, served him food that
smelled like feces. Docket entry #30-4, at 1. Plaintiff further alleged that he overheard
“Coleman” and Turner collaborating to sabotage his tray in order to “provoke aggravation” that
would lead to his commitment to punitive isolation. The grievance was denied initially by a
warden’s decision dated November 18, 2011. See docket entry #30-4, at 2. In his appeal
comment, Plaintiff noted that his grievance included allegations against “Sgt. Sanders (A.K.A
Sgt. Coleman) and her direct association with a personal attack against [Plaintiff’s] health and
safety.” Id.(emphasis added). In a decision dated January 12, 2012, the ADC denied Plaintiff’s
appeal. Id., at 4.
On September 29, 2011, Plaintiff submitted Grievance No. MX-11-01525, charging that
on September 28, 2011, he received “gruel bars” at lunch that tasted like an ashtray and
contained a piece of a cigarette filter. The grievance was denied initially and on appeal.
As a threshold matter, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims regarding food
contamination are based solely on conduct allegedly committed by Defendants Sanders, Brooks,
Turner and Morris. The complaint is void of allegations concerning food contamination
involving conduct on the part of Defendants Outlaw, Montgomery, Jacks, or Parker.3
After careful review of Plaintiff’s complaint and his grievance records, the Court finds that
Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies regarding food- contamination claims4 against
Defendants Sanders and Turner, who are sued in their individual and official capacities. It is
clear from Plaintiff’s appeal note associated with Grievance No. MX-11-01450 that “Corporal
Coleman” and Defendant Sanders are one in the same. Additionally, the Court finds that
Plaintiff’s broad grievance allegation that Sanders (a/k/a Coleman) and Turner collaborated on
September 18, 2011 to “sabotage his tray,” encompasses the more specific allegations against
Sanders and Turner set forth in the complaint. However, the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to
exhaust administrative remedies with respect to his claims against Brooks and Morris, seeking to
hold them personally liable for conduct related to food contamination. Neither Brooks nor
Morris were mentioned in Plaintiff’s grievances, and prison officials never reached the merits of
Plaintiff’s specific allegations against these separate defendants.
In Hammett v. Cofield 681 F.3d 945 (8th Cir. 2012)(per curiam), the Eighth Circuit
adopted the rule that “a grievance that could have been denied for failure to comply with a
[prison’s] procedural requirement is nonetheless exhausted for PLRA purposes if the
“Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the
deprivation of rights.” Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007). To state a
claim against a defendant sued in his personal capacity, a plaintiff must “‘allege specific facts of
personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his constitutional rights.’”
Id. (quoting Mayorga v. Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1132 (8th Cir.2006)).
Plaintiff’s “food-contamination” claims come under the Eighth Amendment.
Accordingly, to prevail with such a claim, Plaintiff must show that prison officials were
deliberately indifferent to his dietary needs. See Wishon v. Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir.
institutional decision-maker instead denied it on the merits.”5 Hammett, 681 at 947. The Court
does not find that rule applicable here. Although ADC decision-makers considered grievances
involving Plaintiff’s food-contamination charges against Sanders and Turner, the undisputed
evidence shows that Plaintiff failed to file a single grievance that references Brooks or Morris,
by name or otherwise, or which raised the allegations he now asserts against these
individuals–that Brooks refused to take photographs of the September 18, 2011 incident and that
Morris refused Plaintiff’s requests for assistance during his stay in punitive isolation.
Citing Bower v. Kelley, No. 12–1678, 2012 WL 6199266 (8th Cir. Dec. 13, 2012)(per
curiam), Judge Young finds that Plaintiff’s exhaustion of “the issue of contaminated meals
precludes entry of summary judgment in favor of any Defendants who might not have been
named in the grievance” Docket entry #36, at 4(emphasis added). The Court finds that the facts
in this case are significantly different from Bower. In Bower, the plaintiff sought damages
against the administrator of Correctional Medical Services (“CMS”) and a CMS dentist. The
In Hammett v. Cofield 681 F.3d 945 (8th Cir. 2012)(per curiam), the Eighth Circuit
noted that the rule it adopted allowed the benefits of exhaustion to be “fully realized.” See
Hammett, 681 F.3d at 947(emphasis added). Those benefits “include allowing a prison to
address complaints about the program it administers before being subjected to suit, reducing
litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved, and improving litigation that does
occur by leading to the preparation of a useful record.” Hammett, 681 F.3d at 947-948 (citing
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007)). “These benefits are
fully realized when an inmate pursues the prison grievance process to its final stage and receives
an adverse decision on the merits, even if the decision-maker could have declined to reach the
merits because of one or more procedural deficiencies. A complete administrative record exists,
and a reviewing court will have the benefit of the agency's institutional perspective.” Id. None
of the benefits of exhaustion referenced in Hammett would be realized if this Court permitted
Plaintiff to proceed with claims against individual defendants that were never presented to prison
plaintiff alleged that the defendants refused to have his dental implants removed and cleaned for
over two years, which caused him to suffer infections. The district court dismissed the claims
for failure to exhaust, and the Eighth Circuit reversed. Citing Hammett v. Cofield 681 F.3d 945
(8th Cir. 2012), the Eighth Circuit noted that it was undisputed that the plaintiff had exhausted his
grievance regarding inadequate dental care. Although the plaintiff’s grievance did not
specifically name the defendants, it referenced “the dentist,” and it contained detailed allegations
regarding the specific conduct that gave rise to the plaintiff’s § 1983 claim. See Bower v. Kelly,
No. 5:11CV00248 HDY (E.D. Ark.)(docket entry #41-3, at 6).
In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiff exhausted his claims against Defendants Sanders
and Turner regarding food contamination. However, the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to
exhaust any of his additional claims against all other defendants joined in this lawsuit.
In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s
official-capacity claims are barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Defendants
correctly note that this argument is not addressed in the Partial Recommended Disposition.
The sovereign immunity of the States recognized in the Eleventh Amendment6 bars any
suit brought in federal court against a state or state agency,7 regardless of the nature of the relief
The States' immunity from suit existed long before ratification of the Constitution, and it
neither derives from or is limited by the Eleventh Amendment. See Alden v. Maine, 119 S.Ct.
2240, 2254 (1999).
The ADC is a state agency that is “the sole creation of the state” and has “no separate
identity” from the state and cannot be stripped of its official character. See Glick v. Henderson,
sought, unless Congress has abrogated the States’ immunity or a state has consented to suit or
waived its immunity. See Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 74 (1996); Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); Edleman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663
(1974). In addition to barring all claims brought directly against a state or state agency, the
Eleventh Amendment protects state officials sued in their official capacities from all claims, with
the exception of certain claims for prospective, equitable relief. See Murphy v. Arkansas, 127
F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir.1997).
Arkansas has not consented to suit in this case, and Congress did not abrogate the States’
Eleventh Amendment immunity by enacting § 1983. See Singletary v. Mo. Dep't of Corrs., 423
F.3d 886, 890 (8th Cir.2005); Burk v. Beene, 948 F.2d 489, 493 (8th Cir.1991). Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims seeking money damages must be dismissed.
Plaintiff also seeks unspecified injunctive relief. Under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123,
28 S. Ct. 441 (1908), state officials may be sued in their official capacities for prospective
injunctive relief without violating the Eleventh Amendment, but such relief must be aimed at
preventing future violations of federal law. In this case, Plaintiff does not allege ongoing
violations of federal law, and the Court finds that his claims for injunctive relief do not fall
within the Ex Parte Young exception. The Court therefore finds that Defendants are entitled to
summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims.
For the reasons stated, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that
855 F.2d 536, 540 (8th Cir.1988).
Plaintiff’s claims of inadequate medical care be dismissed without prejudice for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies. However, the Court respectfully declines to adopt the finding
that “Plaintiff’s exhaustion of the issue of contaminated meals precludes the entry of summary
judgment in favor of any [defendant] who might not have been named in the grievances.” The
Court finds that Plaintiff satisfied the PLRA exhaustion requirement solely with respect to his
claims against Defendants Sanders and Turner and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust any of his
additional claims against other defendants joined in this lawsuit. The Court further finds that
Plaintiff’s official capacity claims are barred under the Eleventh Amendment.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (docket
entry #30) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as follows: (1) Plaintiff’s claims of
inadequate medical care are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; (2) Plaintiff’s claims
regarding food contamination are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, with the exception of
his individual-capacity claims against Defendants Eddie Turner and Charlotte Sanders; and (3)
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants in their official capacities are DISMISSED WITH
IT IS SO ORDERED THIS 8TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2013.
/s/Susan Webber Wright
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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