Huff v. Lott et al
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 47 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 1/17/23. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(mlc)
USDC IN/ND case 3:21-cv-00503-RLM-MGG document 65 filed 01/17/23 page 1 of 4
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
MICHAEL ALLEN HUFF,
CAUSE NO. 3:21-CV-503-RLM-MGG
LT. LOTT, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael Allen Huff, a prisoner without a lawyer, is proceeding in this case on
two Eighth Amendment claims. First, he proceeds “against Correction OfficialLieutenant Lott, Correction Official-Sergeant Haskel, Correction Official Anthony
Sims, Correction Official-Sergeant Wolford, and Correction Official Sanders in their
individual capacities for compensatory and punitive damages for using excessive
force against him on February 21, 2021[.]” ECF 32 at 8. Second, he proceeds “against
Correction Official Anthony Sims and Correction Official Sanders in their individual
capacities for compensatory and punitive damages for using excessive force against
him on March 7, 2021[.]” Id. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing
Mr. Huff didn’t exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. Mr. Huff filed
a response. The defendants haven’t filed a reply, and the time for doing so has
expired. The summary judgment motion is now ripe for ruling.
Summary judgment must be granted when “there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Federal
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Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists when “the
evidence is such that a reasonable [factfinder] could [find] for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To determine whether a
genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must construe all facts in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party’s favor. Heft v. Moore, 351 F.3d 278, 282 (7th Cir. 2003). A party opposing a
properly supported summary judgment motion can’t rely merely on allegations or
denials in its own pleading, but rather must “present the court with the evidence she
contends will prove her case.” Goodman v. Nat’l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654
(7th Cir. 2010).
Prisoners are prohibited from bringing an action in federal court with respect
to prison conditions “until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[A] suit filed by a prisoner before administrative
remedies have been exhausted must be dismissed; the district court lacks discretion
to resolve the claim on the merits, even if the prisoner exhausts intra-prison remedies
before judgment.” Perez v. Wisconsin Dep’t of Corr., 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999)
(emphasis added). “Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that a defendant has
the burden of proving.” King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 893 (7th Cir. 2015).
Courts take a “strict compliance approach to exhaustion,” Dole v. Chandler,
438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006), so “unless the prisoner completes the
administrative process by following the rules the state has established for that
process, exhaustion has not occurred.” Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1023 (7th
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Cir. 2002). Inmates are only required to exhaust administrative remedies that are
“available.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 102 (2006). If prison staff hinder an
inmate’s ability to use the administrative process, administrative remedies aren’t
considered “available.” Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 684 (7th Cir. 2006). For instance,
an administrative procedure is unavailable “when prison administrators thwart
inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination,
misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Ross v. Blake, 578 U.S. 632, 644 (2016). The
question is whether a person of “ordinary firmness” would have been deterred from
exhausting under the circumstances. Schultz v. Pugh, 728 F.3d 619, 621 (7th Cir.
The defendants contend that Mr. Huff didn’t timely file any formal grievance
related to the defendants’ alleged use of excessive force. Mr. Huff concedes in his
response that he never timely filed any grievance. Instead, he argues that prison
administrators made his administrative remedies unavailable by engaging in
affirmative misconduct to prevent him from exhausting. Mr. Huff asserts that prison
administrators: (1) threatened to have him murdered if he reported the excessive
force incidents; (2) assaulted and threatened him when he tried to report the
incidents to a counselor; and (3) tried to induce other inmates to murder him by
offering them cell phones and immunity from consequence. Because the defendants
don’t reply to these assertions, the court accepts them as undisputed. Because Mr.
Huff has provided undisputed evidence that prison administrators engaged in
affirmative misconduct that would have prevented a person of “ordinary firmness”
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from exhausting his administrative remedies, Mr. Huff has shown his administrative
remedies were unavailable. The defendants haven’t met their burden to show Mr.
Huff had available administrative remedies he didn’t exhaust.
For these reasons, the court DENIES the defendant’s motion for summary
judgment (ECF 47).
SO ORDERED on January 17, 2023.
s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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