Caldwell v. Lavenhagen et al
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 41 MOTION for Summary Judgment by Defendant Lieutenant Creasy. Signed by Judge Joseph S Van Bokkelen on 7/16/2015. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
Case No. 3:14-CV-1503-JVB-JEM
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Robert Caldwell, a prisoner in the Indiana Department of Correction system,
sued three staff members of the Westville Correctional Facility under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violation of his rights under the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Caldwell
claims that the staff’s indifference to his safety and denial of his request to be separated from
certain other prisoners resulted in his serious physical injury. Defendant Lieutenant Creasy
moved for summary judgment, citing the affirmative defense that Caldwell failed to exhaust
administrative remedies before bringing a lawsuit in federal court as required by the Prisoner
Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C § 1997e. Specifically, Lieutenant Creasy insists that he was
never named nor otherwise referenced in the prison’s grievance process, and therefore cannot be
named in Caldwell’s federal lawsuit. The Court denies the motion for summary judgment.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
A motion for summary judgment must be granted “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Rule 56(c) further requires the entry of summary judgment,
after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will
bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing a court of the
basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the
moving party supports its motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other materials, it
thereby shifts to the non-moving party the burden of showing that an issue of material fact exists.
Keri v. Bd. of Trust. of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006).
Rule 56(e) specifies that once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made,
“the adverse party’s response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth
specific facts to establish that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In viewing
the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences and resolve all doubts
in favor of that party. Keri, 458 F.3d at 628. A court’s role is not to evaluate the weight of the
evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead
to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
242, 249–50 (1986).
B. Summary of Events
Caldwell is a prisoner at the Westville Correctional Facility and a self-described member of
the white supremacist Dirty White Boyz (DWB) prison gang. On November 28, 2013, when
Caldwell discovered he was moving to a section of the prison with a significant black prisoner
population, he raised his safety concerns to several prison staff. Caldwell was not immediately
removed from his new dorm assignment and the next day, he was attacked by his fellow
prisoners. The attackers broke his hand and injured his head, requiring 16 stitches.
Unhappy with the prison staff’s initial response to his verbal, informal complaint about his
concerns with his housing relocation, Caldwell used the Indiana Department of Corrections
Offender Grievance Process to file a Level I Formal Grievance and, later, appealed the prison’s
response with a Level II Formal Grievance before filing suit in this court. (DE 41-B, DE 41-C).
In Grievance Form #45471 (Case No. 79968), dated December 7, 2013, Caldwell cites the
subject of his grievance as “Housing Placement” and the attack by fellow prisoners as a result of
what he perceives to be the prison staff’s unprofessional behavior. Caldwell cites “SGT’s and
Staff” as the personnel he contacted in his original informal complaint process and specifically
mentions a “CO” (corrections officer), a “SGT Orr” and a “they” in reference to prison staff
with whom he interacted during his placement in the new dorm. (DE 1-1). The majority of his
complaint addresses SGT Orr’s final response to his requests for help prior to his beating. In
Caldwell’s complaint filed with this court, in addition to naming Officer Orr, Caldwell also
names Superintendent Lavenhagen and Lieutenant Creasy as Defendants.1
There is no dispute whether Caldwell filed the appropriate paperwork or met administrative
deadlines as required by the Indiana Department of Corrections Offender Grievance Process with
regards to “Officer Orr.” The issue here is whether Caldwell’s Level I and Level II Formal
Grievances about the attack on November 29 adequately identify Lt. Creasy prior to naming him
in this federal lawsuit. In other words, the question before the Court is whether Caldwell
exhausted his administrative remedies before suing Creasy.
1. Prison Litigation Reform Act Standards and the Indiana Department of Corrections
Offender Grievance Process
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, prisoners are prohibited from filing federal
lawsuits regarding prison conditions unless they have first exhausted all administrative remedies
available to them. 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 1997e(a). It was left to each state to develop their own
administrative grievance process within their correctional facilities. Section 1997e(a)’s
exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement is designed “to alert prison officials to a
problem, not to provide personal notice to a particular official that he may be sued . . .” Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219 (2007). Similarly, in the Seventh Circuit, “a grievant is not required to
know the name of the prison employee whom he is complaining about — often he will not know
the employee’s name — and so it is enough if he ‘include[s] as much descriptive information
Upon screening of Caldwell’s case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court dismissed all
claims against Superintendent Mark Lavenhagen.
about the individual as possible,’ § 504.810(b).” Roberts v. Neal, 745 F.3d 232, 235--236 (7th
The Indiana Department of Corrections Offender Grievance Process is a three-step
administrative procedure: The first step requires prisoners to informally (verbally) address their
issues with a designated staff member. If the issue is not resolved to their satisfaction, the
prisoners must then file an official grievance form. Third, and finally, if the prisoners remain
dissatisfied with the correction facility’s response, they may appeal their grievance to the next
higher authority. Only after taking all three steps, may Indiana prisoners file a lawsuit against
the prison facility or its staff.
2. Caldwell’s Grievance Process
In this case, Caldwell satisfied the intent of the grievance process. Caldwell provided
sufficient information, including date, time, location and details of his attack, in Grievance Form
#45471 to indicate his dissatisfaction that prison staff failed to safeguard him from other
prisoners; prison officials received adequate information and opportunity to determine which
staff members may have been on duty and approached by Caldwell in the short period between
his arrival at the new dorm and the attack by fellow prisoners. During the grievance process, it
came to light that there was no corrections officer currently employed at the prison with the same
name (Orr or Orth) as that provided by Caldwell. A prisoner’s complaint, however, cannot be
denied, if he fails to get all details of the personnel involved. There is no requirement in either
the Prison Reform Litigation Act or the Indiana Department of Corrections Offender Grievance
Process that all prison staff officers involved be correctly named — or named at all — at the time
the grievance is filed. As stated above, the purpose of the Prison Litigation Reform Act is to put
prison officials on notice of a specific problem so that they may address it at the lowest level
without requiring court involvement if it can be addressed locally; the purpose of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act is not to serve as some sort of legal notice to any specific prison official
that he may be sued. Put another way, the requirement to exhaust administrative remedies is
intended to benefit the federal courts and the prison systems and the prisoners; ideally it reduces
the numbers of lawsuits brought by prisoners by ensuring the problem is addressed at the lowest
levels possible; this saves time and expense for all parties involved.
This case is distinguished from Roberts v. Neal, 745 F.3d 232: There the Court found that
prisoner Roberts failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before suing two of the named
defendants, Alvin and Davis. Specifically, in the grievance filed with prison officials, Roberts
failed to adequately identify two of defendants named in his federal lawsuit when he first filed
his grievance with the prison. Roberts provided neither a name, duty position nor location that
might alert a grievance officer of the defendants’ identities or involvement with his case. In a
subsequent lawsuit, he named Alvis, a non-medical, receiving officer, despite the fact that his
grievance specifically regarded his medical care at a certain prison facility. In addition, he
attempted to sue a prison nurse who worked at a different prison facility than where his
grievance stated he was unhappy with his medical care.
Here, however, although Caldwell failed to name in his grievance all individuals whom he
notified about his safety concerns, he did provide prison officials with clear dates, timelines and
identification of specific phases of his relocation and in-processing so that they could determine
which personnel would came into contact with Caldwell prior to his assault. Additionally,
Caldwell cited in his grievance the duty positions of those with whom he interacted: the “SGTs
and Staff on Duty”; the prison employees that placed him on “3 Dorm” at 3:3 am on November,
29, 2013; the prison employee(s) working in “the [officers’] cage”; the “CO”; and, the “dorm
officer.” (DE 1A). This combination of facts meets the exhaustion of administrative procedures
burden placed on Caldwell. The fact that prison officials may or may not have put Lt. Creasy on
notice about Caldwell’s grievance cannot be held against Caldwell.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires a court to “grant summary judgment if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” In the cases where a motion for summary judgment is based on
the affirmative defense that a prisoner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the moving
party incurs the burden to establish the absence of disputed issues of material facts concerning
the prisoner’s failure to pursue those remedies. Defendant Creasy fails to establish his
affirmative defense in this case. Therefore, the Court DENIES his Motion for Summary
Judgment (DE 41).
SO ORDERED on July 16, 2015.
s/ Joseph S. Van Bokkelen
Joseph S. Van Bokkelen
United States District Judge
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