CHANDLER v. OLGUIN et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on 1/18/17. (ms)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
CATHLIN OLGUIN, et al.,
JOHNNY RAY CHANDLER,
Civil Action No. 16-1891 (BAH)
This matter is before the Court on the Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss or, Alternatively,
for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 6, and for Extension of Time to File Reply, ECF No. 9. For
the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the former and deny the latter as moot.
At all times relevant to the complaint, the plaintiff was in the custody of the Federal
Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and incarcerated at the Administrative Maximum United States
Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. Defs.’ Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss
or, Alternatively, for Summ. J. (“Defs.’ Mem.”), Kissell Decl. ¶ 2. The plaintiff, who has “a
heart condition known as P.V.C.,” Compl. at 1, began to experience “very bad and painful chest
pains” on February 27, 2016[,]” id. at 2. “Nurse Olguin, R.N., was the medical staff member
on duty. Id. Although Olguin had been informed of the plaintiff’s condition, she allegedly
“never came” to assist him, and he “waited (in pain) for over an hour.” Id. According to the
plaintiff, “Nurse Olguin, R.N. was required to at least check [his] vital signs, but she never did,”
even though the plaintiff “could have died.” Id.
The BOP’s Administrative Remedy Program is the means by which inmates may “seek
formal review of any aspect of their confinement.” Kissell Decl. ¶ 4. It “is typically a fourtiered review process comprised of an informal resolution process and then formal requests to the
Warden, the Regional Director, and the Office of the General Counsel.” Id. The “process is not
complete until the Office of General Counsel replies, on the merits, to the inmate’s [request].”
Id. ¶ 5. The BOP’s declarant states that, of the 57 formal administrative remedy requests
submitted by the plaintiff between February 27, 2016 and October 1, 2016, id. ¶ 7, four reached
the Office of General Counsel, id. ¶ 8. “[N]one of these requests relates to the claims alleged in
this litigation,” however. Id. ¶ 9. “In fact, none . . . relates to an incident occurring on February
27, 2016.” Id. Based on his review, the declarant avers that the “[p]laintiff did not exhaust his
remedies as related to complaints against the defendants raised in the present case through BOP’s
Administrative Remedy Program.” Id. ¶ 10.
On March 10, 2016, the plaintiff filed an administrative tort claim “with BOP . . .
alleging that he was injured as a result of tortious conduct on February 27, 2016.” Id. ¶ 11; see
generally id., Ex. (Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death). The BOP initiated two separate
investigations, the first (Claim No. 2016-03356) on March 21, 2016, and the second (Claim No.
2016-03653) on April 11, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 13-15. The BOP denied Claim No. 2016-03653 on June
22, 2016, and Claim No. 2016-03356 on September 21, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 16-17.
On June 13, 2016, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the plaintiff filed a
civil action against the BOP and Olguin “for medical negligence” demanding monetary damages
of $75,000. Compl. at 1. The defendants removed the case on September 21, 2016, and filed
their motion to dismiss or for summary judgment on November 21, 2016. On November 22,
2016, the Court issued an Amended Order advising the plaintiff of his obligations under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local civil rules of this Court. See Neal v. Kelly, 963
F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992); Fox v. Strickland, 837 F.2d 507, 509 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
Specifically, the Court notified the plaintiff that, if he failed to file an opposition or other
response to the defendants’ motion by December 21, 2016, the Court would treat the pending
dispositive motion as conceded. See D.D.C. Local Civil Rule 7(b) (permitting court to “treat . . .
as conceded” a motion not met with a timely opposing memorandum of points and authorities).
To date, the plaintiff has not filed an opposition to the pending motion, or requested more time to
file an opposition, or advised the Court of any change of address.
Under these circumstances, the Court ordinarily would grant the defendants’ motion as
conceded. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently has
raised concerns, however, about the use of Local Civil Rule 7(b) to grant unopposed motions to
dismiss, see Cohen v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of the District of Columbia, 819 F.3d 476, 482
(D.C. Cir. 2016), and for summary judgment, see Winston & Strawn, LLP v. McLean, 843 F.3d
503, 507-08 (D.C. Cir. 2016). In light of these recent rulings, the Court briefly addresses the
merits of the defendants’ arguments.
The plaintiff’s demand for monetary damages arises from the defendants’ alleged breach
of duty to provide medical treatment on February 2, 2016, and the unspecified harm he allegedly
suffered as a result. Based on the representation that “Cathlin Olguin was an employee of the
Government and was acting within the scope of her employment for the [BOP] at the time of the
allegations stated in Plaintiff’s Complaint,” Certification, ECF No. 1-2, the Court treats the
plaintiff’s negligence claim as one brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) against
the United States directly.
“It is axiomatic that the United States may not be sued without its consent and that the
existence of consent is a prerequisite for jurisdiction.” United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206,
212 (1983). Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the United States is immune from suit
unless Congress expressly has waived the defense of sovereign immunity by statute. See id. The
FTCA operates as a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, rendering the United States amenable
to suit for certain, but not all, tort claims. See, e.g., Richards v. United States, 369 U.S. 1, 6
(1962). Under the FTCA, a claimant may file suit against the United States for claims of
“personal injury . . . caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the
Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b).
Nevertheless, limitations under and exceptions to the FTCA doom the plaintiff’s claim.
Relevant to this case is the exhaustion requirement:
An action shall not be instituted upon a claim against the United
States for money damages for injury or loss of property or personal
injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission
of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope
of his office or employment, unless the claimant shall have first
presented the claim to the appropriate Federal agency and his claim
shall have been finally denied by the agency in writing and sent by
certified or registered mail. The failure of an agency to make final
disposition of a claim within six months after it is filed shall, at the
option of the claimant any time thereafter, be deemed a final denial
of the claim for purposes of this section.
28 U.S.C. § 2675(a) (emphasis added). “The FTCA bars claimants from bringing suit in federal
court until they have exhausted their administrative remedies,” and the plaintiff’s “fail[ure] to
heed that clear statutory command” warrants dismissal of his claim. McNeil v. United States,
508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
The six-month period within which the BOP was obliged to respond to the plaintiff’s
FTCA claim had not expired when the plaintiff initiated his lawsuit. The defendants demonstrate
that the plaintiff filed his complaint in the Superior Court prematurely, see Kissell Decl. ¶¶ 1112, and thus failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
If the Court were to conclude that the FTCA did not apply, the plaintiff’s claim still
would be subject to dismissal for failure to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him
through the BOP’s Administrative Remedy Program. In relevant part, the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (“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 to any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such
administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The PLRA’s exhaustion requirement is mandatory and “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 v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
532 (2002) (citation omitted); see Ross v. Blake, 136 S. Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016) (noting “that . . . a
court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take [special] circumstances into account.”).
Exhaustion under the PLRA requires proper exhaustion, meaning that a prisoner must comply
with procedural rules, including filing deadlines, as a precondition to filing a civil suit in federal
court, regardless of the relief offered through the administrative process. See Woodford v. Ngo,
548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Thus, a prisoner may file a
civil action concerning conditions of confinement under federal law only after he has exhausted
the prison’s administrative remedies. See Jackson v. District of Columbia, 254 F.3d 262, 269
(D.C. Cir. 2001).
The defendants demonstrate that none of the plaintiff’s administrative remedy requests
submitted between February 27, 2016 and October 1, 2016 reaching the final tier for review by
the Office of General Counsel pertained to the medical treatment the plaintiff allegedly had been
denied. See Kissell Decl. ¶¶ 7-9.
The Court concludes that the plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies under
the FTCA and the PLRA prior to filing this action in the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia. Accordingly, the Court grants the defendants’ motion. An Order consistent with this
Memorandum Opinion is issued separately.
DATE: January 18, 2017
Beryl A. Howell
BERYL A. HOWELL
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