Jackson et al v. Catanzariti et al

Filing 188

ORDER denying 132 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; denying 134 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Signed by Chief Judge J. Randal Hall on 06/27/2017. (thb)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF COURT FOR THE GEORGIA STATESBORO DIVISION MIGUEL JACKSON and KELVIN STEVENSON, * * Plaintiffs, * CIVIL ACTION NO. CV 612-113 v. ir JOSEPH CATANZARITI, et al. , it i: Defendants. ORDER Plaintiffs Miguel Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S. C. § 1983 on December 10, 2012. The case arises out of an alleged unlawful beating that Plaintiffs received at December 31, January 25, Smith State 2010. 2013. Prison in; Glennville, Plaintiffs Georgia, on amended their complaint on The amended coiyiplaint is the operative complaint in the case. (Doc. 24.) Plaintiffs have named 3 9 individuals from Smith State Prison ks Defendants. two of the defendants, Eason, have contending Defendants Eerius Attical and Joshua filed motions that Plaintiffs for judgment have administrative remedies against them. for consideration. Presently, on failed the to pleadings exhaust The motions are ripe I. LEGAL STANDARD The legal standards applicable to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) motions for judgment on the pleadings and Rule 12(b) (6) motions to dismiss are the same. Roma v. Outdoor Creations, Inc. v. City of Cumming, Ga. , 558 F. Supp. 2d 1283, 1284 (N.D. Ga. 2008) ("A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as is a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.") A motion for judgment on the pleadings, like a motion to dismiss, does not test whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the merits of the case. tests complaint. the Rhodes, legal 416 U.S. sufficiency of 232, 236 the (1974). Therefore, Rather, it Scheur v. the court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, (11th Cir. 2002) . The court, however, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 need not accept the i complaint's facts. legal conclusions as true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, only its well-pled 677-79 (2009). A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, xto plausible on its face.'" v. Twomblv, 550 U.S. state a claim to relief that Id. at 61% (citing Bell Atl. 544, 570 (2007)). required to plead *factual content that The allows is Corp. plaintiff is the to court draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct probability beyond . Twombly, Broudo, . 550 544 alleged." requirement . mere U.S. U.S. Id. at the pleading possibility at 336, 556-57 347 j Although . . . stage, must (citing Durma (2005)) When, basis of a dispositive issue of law, there is no "something be alleged." Pharm., Inc. v. on the however, no construction of the factual allegations of the complaint will support the cause of action, dismissal of the complaint is appropriate, See Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin Cnty. , 922 F.2d 1536, 1539 (11th Cir. 1991). II. On December 31, BACKGROUND 2010, performed a nshake down" Plaintiffs. Smith of State th^ Prison officials dormitory that housed (Am. Compl., Doc. 24, t 13.) During that time, Defendant Joseph Catanzariti struck Plaintiff Jackson after the two exchanged words, and then Defendant Catanzariti lifted Plaintiff Jackson up, with the help of other defendants, as if he were going to throw him over the second floor rail. H 16.) (Id. After placing him in handcuffs, Defendant Catanzariti repeatedly struck Plaintiff Jackson in the face with an object (the back end of a flash light or hammer). beating is allegedly on video. strike Plaintiff Jackson while (Id. ) he dormitory and to the medical unit (Id. f 19.) This Defendants continued to was escorted (Id. H 21.) outside the Defendant Catanzariti repeatedly hit Plaintiff Jackson in the face with a hammer, and another defendant beat him with a night stick. (Id. H 22.) While in the medical unit, Defendant Catanzariti threatened Plaintiff Jackson if he mentioned the beating and hit him a few more times. (Id. f 27.) Plaintiff Jackson suffered head injury, a broken nose, fractured teeth, multiple lacerations to the face, contusions, swelling to his eyes and trauma to his ear canal. (Id. U 29.) Plaintiff Jackson continues to suffer effects from tjhe injuries sustained on that day. (Id.) During this same event, Defendant Catanzariti also repeatedly struck Plaintiff Stevenson with a hammer while he was handcuffed, on the ground, sitting on him. (Id. t 17.) Plaintiff Stevenson at the and with a 300-pound officer Other defendants beat and kicked same time. beating is allegedly on video. (Id.) (Id. f 18.) This Plaintiff Stevenson was taken to the medical unit, but while there, Defendants punched him in the Stevenson face with handcuffs. suffered head injury, (Id. K 26.) concussion, a Plaintiff broken jaw, multiple lacerations, a broken nose; swelling to the eyes and trauma to his ear canal. (Id. K 28.) Plaintiff Stevenson continues to suffer effects from the injuries sustained on that day. In (Id. ) their § 1983 amended complaint, Plaintiffs have brought a claim (Count I) for violation of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiffs allege that all Defendants either participated in the beatings or failed to take reasonable steps to immediately stop the illegal beatings, or both. Plaintiffs have also brought a claim (Count II) for supervisory liability against Defendants Catanzariti, Eason and Andrew McFarlane. The case was stayed for over three years because of the state criminal charges brought against Plaintiffs for their conduct in the prison disturbance that occurred on that day. (See Doc. 81, 118.) Now, discovery in the case is ongoing and i being actively Judge. monitored by the United States Magistrate A Joint Status Report submitted to the Court on March 7, 2017 shows that the parties are discussing the dismissal of several defendants; those listed. however, (See Doc. the movants here are not among 174.) III. LEGAL ANALYSIS Section 1983 creates a federal remedy for the deprivation of federal rights. Inc., 826 F.2d 1030, 1983 claim Wideman v. Shallowford Community Hosp., requires 1032 (11th Cir. proof of a 1987). An actionable § deprivation of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and that the deprivation was by a person or persons acting under color of law.1 claim that Defendants punishment in Id. subjected them to the Eighth and unusual made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. See (stating of cruel Amendment Campbell v. violation Here, Plaintiffs Sikesf 169 F.3d 1353, the Eighth Amendment's that 1374 (11th Cir. 1999) proscription against cruel and unusual punishment governs the amount of force that prison officials are entitled to use against inmates); Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530, 1532 (11^ Cir. 1990) ("The eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is triggered when a prisoner is subject to a [n] wanton infliction of pain.'" 'unnecessary and (quoted source omitted)). In order to seek relief, however, a prisoner must first exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in federal ! court. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002) . More specifically, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") , action " [n]o shall be brought conditions under section 1983 Federal law . . . until of with this respect title, such administrative available are exhausted." Through their motions 42 U.S.C. to prison or any other remedies as are § 1997e(a). for judgment on the pleadings, Defendants Eason and Attical contend that Plaintiffs did not 1 There is no dispute that of state law. Defendants acted under color exhaust against them because their prison grievances do not identify them. In Jones v. Bock, their administrative 549 U.S. 199, Court explained that 218 remedies (2007), the United States Supreme u[t]he level bf detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grieva.nce procedures will vary from system prison's to system and claim requirements, and not to the boundaries of proper exhaustion." claim, PLRA, but is the define that it the Thus, this Court must look to the Smith State Prison's requirements to determine whether Plaintiffs complied with its grievance procedure. The Standard Operating Procedure for prisons operated by the Georgia Department of Corrections requires a prisoner to use its grievance form to grieve his complaints. In turn, the Grievance Form informs the prisoner as follows: must be completed in blue or black ink. dates, You must include t specific information names concerning your of persons involved, "This form grievance and to witnesses. include n2 (Def. j Eason's Br. in Supp. of Mot. for J. on the Pleadings, 132, Exs. 1 & 2 (emphasis added) .) Doc. Here, Defendants Eason and 2 Plaintiffs argue in part thlat they were not required to provide the names of persons involved because such requirement appears on the Grievance Form as opposed to in the Standard Operating Procedures Department of Corrections. ("SOP") of the Georgia (Doc. 135, at 13-14; Doc. 142, at 13-14.) This argument is without merit; the Grievance Form is explicitly identified within and appended to the SOP. Its use is a required step in the exhaustion process and is therefore an integral part of the grievance procedure. Attical complain that Plaintiffs' grievances fail to mention them by name or any description of events or conduct that could reasonably identify them. Plaintiff Jackson's grievance form reads as follows: On 12/31/10 after regaining control of a disturbance in D-2 Dorm, Smith State Prison. and subdued with mace. Sgt. While han[d]cuffed Joseph Catanzai (sic) and escort off. repeatedly beat! me in the head, face, and body with a hammer and blackjack all the way to the medical door. Inside medical waiting room officers continued to punch and kick me. (Id. , Ex. 1.) Plaintiff Jackson requests "criminal charges brought upon all officers that participated!" (Id.) Plaintiff Stevenson's grievance form reads as follows: 12-31-10 at D2 Dormitory, Petit ioner was assaulted by Lt. McFarland (sic) and Sgt Cantarzati (sic) 2nd shift along with numerous other officers, while handcuffed in restraints. numerous which times were with used as a Said officers assaulted me metal brass hammer knuckles and handcuffs .... Said incident was witnessed by Micheal (sic) Briscoe and numerous persons of Smith S.P. (Grady Williams). (Id. , Ex. 2.) Plaintiff Stevenson requests * [c]riminal and civil charges to be brought against said officers . . . ." (IdJ The Eleventh Circuit addressed a similar question to the one presented here in Brown v. Sikes, 212 F.3d 1205 (11th Cir 2000) . The question before the Brown court was "whether the § 1997e(a) exhaustion requirement always prohibits a prisoner from suing any defendant other than those administrative grievance the prisoner filed." 8 named in the Id. at 1207 The Eleventh Circuit unequivocally held that it does not. I Rather, the prisoner need only provide "all the relevant information he has, including the identity of any officials he thinks have wronged him and any witnesses." Id. at 1208. The court reasoned that a prisoner cannot identify those whose identities are unknown to him and that the PLRA did not intend to "shut[] the courthouse door to a prisoner who, at the time he filed his grievance, did not know and could not readily ascertain the identity of the individuals responsible for the alleged injury or deprivation." The Id. United States Supreme Court did not change this analysis in Jones v. Bock, 54 9 U.S. 199, but rather supported the Brown rationale when it held that nothing in the PLRA "imposes a 'name all defendants' i requirement" upon Importantly, the a prison Jones grievance Court form. concluded Id. that the at 217. level of detail required in a prison grievance would vary not only from system to system but from "claim to claim" as well. 218; see also id. at 219 (n [E] xhaustion is not Id. at per se inadequate simply because an individual later sued was not named in the grievances. We leave it to the court below in the first instance to determine |the sufficiency of the exhaustion in these cases."). In reviewing Plaintiffs' Court is mindful of the grievances in this case, purposes behind the the exhaustion requirement. The exhaustion requirement "eliminate[s] unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons" and allows "'corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing initiation of a federal case.'" 93 (2006) Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, (quoted source omitted); see also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 204 ("Requiring exhaustion allows prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes their responsibilities before concerning the exercise of being haled into court."); Toennings v. Ga. Dep't of Corr., 600 F. App'x 645, 649 (11th Cir. 2 015) ("The critical function of the grievance process is that it provides the institution with notice of a problem such i that they have internally.") 10, an opportunity to address (citing with approval Brown, the problem 212 F.3d at 1209- for the proposition that "[e]xhaustion of the grievance procedure does not require that every single defendant be identified by name"). The Court has also considered the cases cited by the parties to include Parzyck v. Prison Health Servs., 627 F.3d 1215 (11th Cir. 2010) . In Parzyck, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that a prison grievance form that did not list the name of the doctor defendant was not insufficient for a claim involving the ongoing denial of medical attention. Plaintiffs cite Paryzyck in a conclusive way for the proposition that 10 " [a] prisoner need not name any particular defendant grievance in order to properly exhaust his claim." 1218-19. because Defendants it distinct This involved occurrence, Court uses complain a that continuous and Paryzck because as an Paryzyck failure it is to involved example of in a Id. at inapposite act, not Florida analyzing a law. the exhaustion requirement on a case by case basis in accordance with the policy reasons behind it, Id. at 1219 ("Section 1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement is designed 'to alert prison officials to a problem, not to provide personal notice to a particular official that he may be sued . . . .'" (quoted sources omitted)). Defendants also cite Wright v. Langford, 562 F. App'x 769 (11th Cir. 2 014), in which the Eleventh Circuit found that a grievance form which omitted the defendant's name did not properly exhaust the prisoner's administrative remedies. subject grievance form, stated in relevant part: however, The was sparse in that it only "My hand is fractured your officer handcuffed me behind my back." Id. at 772. At the summary judgment stage, the district court dismissed the plaintiff's excessive force claim for failure to exhaust upon finding that the grievance was untimely and failed to include not only the officer's name, which was known to the plaintiff at the time of filing the grievance, but also that the officer "handcuffed 11 him too tightly or jerked him up on the handcuffs." 776. Id. at By contrast, Plaintiffs' grievances in this case provide greater detail. Finally, the parties decision in Toenniges, court recognized discuss the Eleventh 600 F. App'x 645. that "[t] he Circuit's In Toenniges, function critical the the of grievance process is that it provides the institution with notice of address a problem such that they have an opportunity to the problem internally." Id. at 649. The court concluded that the Georgia prisoner's failure to name a doctor defendant on his grievance form was fatal to his claim because the grievance, filed and prior grieved to the doctor's treatment, did not serve the purpose of putting the prison on notice of an ongoing problem with the prisoner's treatment or give the prison an opportunity to address the medical issue. i Id. Again, the court's focus was on whether the subject grievance served the purposes of the exhaustion requirement. In the case at bar, distinct incident Plaintiffs' grievances describe a (identified by date and place) of alleged unlawful beatings of Plaintiffs in the dormitory, in transit to the medical unit, and while in the medical unit. The grievances provide a few names along with the allegation that "numerous" unidentified officers participated in the beatings. It is clear from both grievances that Plaintiffs believed more 12 than the named officers were involved. There can be no doubt that if the allegations are true, it would be very difficult for an aggressively beaten inmate in such tumultuous circumstances to remember or be aware of every officer who was present and participated in the abuse. It is also noteworthy that the allegations arise out of a prison disturbance that had to be well-known and thoroughly prison. Indeed, Plaintiffs short, this Court chargejs will not were hold brought by the for their involvement. In criminal investigated these against particular prisoners under the circumstances of this case to a strict "'name all defendants' requirement!' at the pleadings stage because of the instructions on the grievance form. v. Bock, 54 9 U.S. at 217. Certainly, See Jones the grievances put the prison on notice of potential claims, particularly given the heinous nature of the allegations. Finally, the Court observes that the parties are diligently conducting discovery and represent that they are carefully considering which of the named Defendants should remain in the case (Joint Status Report, Doc. 174 (listing 15 Defendants that Plaintiffs are prepared to dismiss and stating that "[t]he parties will continue to discuss whether additional Defendants can be dismissed from the case before motions for summary judgment are due to be filed").) 13 IV. Upon the foregoing, CONCLUSION the Court concludes that Plaintiffs did not fail to exhaust their administrative remedies against Defendants Accordingly, Eason and Attical under the circumstances. the Court DENIES Defendants Eason and Attical's motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Docs. 132 & 134.) ORDER ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia, this ^r_7^aky of June, 2017. jL, CHIEF JUDGE UNitED States district court DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 14

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