TAYLOR v. ZATECKY et al
ORDER Granting Motion to Resolve Defendants' Exhaustion Defense and Denying the State Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Mr. Taylor's motion to resolve exhaustion defense, dkt. 62 , is granted to the extent the Court consider ed the evidence and arguments contained therein. The State Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. 58 , is denied. The State Defendants shall have through December 17, 2021, in which to notify the Court in writing either that they have abandoned their affirmative defense of exhaustion or that they request a hearing to resolve the factual disputes detailed above. (SEE ORDER). Signed by Judge James Patrick Hanlon on 11/18/2021. (MAC)
Case 1:20-cv-02413-JPH-MPB Document 89 Filed 11/18/21 Page 1 of 9 PageID #: 754
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
QUENTIN L. TAYLOR,
DUSHAN ZATECKY, et al.
Order Granting Motion to Resolve Defendants' Exhaustion Defense and
Denying the State Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiff Quentin Taylor, an inmate currently incarcerated at Pendleton
Correctional Facility ("Pendleton"), filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging that prison officials and medical staff violated his constitutional
rights. Defendants Nicole Carter, Leslie Gray, Jason Ernest, Rachael Gross,
Davis Mason, Charles Rinehart, Jeremy Rattan, Aaron Smith, Dushan Zatecky,
Robert Carter, and Justin Davis (collectively the "State Defendants") seek
summary judgment arguing that Mr. Taylor failed to exhaust his available
administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit, as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Mr. Taylor titled his
response as a motion to resolve the exhaustion defense. Dkt. 62. This motion,
dkt. , is granted to the extent the Court considers the arguments and
evidence contained therein.
The record demonstrates that a material factual dispute exists concerning
whether Mr. Taylor submitted a corrected formal grievance. Therefore, the State
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is denied.
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I. Legal Standard
A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Whether a party asserts
that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the
asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions,
documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a
fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence
of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B).
The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable
factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570
F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018).
The Court need only consider the cited materials and need not "scour the record"
for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion. Grant
v. Trustees of Ind. Univ., 870 F.3d 562, 573−74 (7th Cir. 2017) (quotation marks
omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3).
II. Statement of Facts
The following statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as
the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the
undisputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to Mr. Taylor as
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the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
A. Administrative Remedy Procedure
At all relevant times, Mr. Taylor was incarcerated at correctional facilities
within the Indiana Department of Correction ("IDOC"). Dkt. 1 at 2. The IDOC
maintains an Offender Grievance Process ("Grievance Process") which is
intended to resolve inmate complaints promptly and effectively. Dkt. 60-1 at ¶ 5.
The Grievance Process applies to inmate concerns about the conditions of
confinement and the actions of staff. Id.; see also dkt. 60-2 at 3. Mr. Taylor
learned about the Grievance Process upon arrival at Pendleton and had access
to a copy of the Grievance Process through the Pendleton law library. Dkt. 60-1
at ¶ 6.
The Grievance Process has four steps: (1) an informal attempt to resolve
the issue; (2) a formal attempt to solve the issue; (3) a written appeal to the
warden or the warden's designee; and (4) a written appeal to the IDOC Grievance
Manager. Dkt. 60-2 at 2-3. To exhaust the Grievance Process, an inmate must
timely pursue each of the four steps and use the proper forms. Dkt. 60-1 at ¶ 19.
When an inmate is transferred to a different correctional facility after initiating
a grievance, he may continue to pursue remedies through the Grievance Process
at his former facility. Dkt. 60-1 at ¶ 11.
Under the Grievance Process, an inmate must first attempt to informally
resolve a complaint. Dkt. 60-2 at 8-9. He may do so either in writing or by
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speaking "with the staff member responsible for the situation or . . . with the
person who is in charge of the area where the situation occurs." Id. at 9.
After attempting to informally resolve an issue, an inmate may submit a
formal grievance by completing State Form 45471. Id. This form must be
submitted to the Grievance Specialist no later than 10 business days "from the
date of the incident giving rise to the complaint." Id. The Grievance Specialist
screens each formal grievance for compliance with IDOC policy. Id. at 10. If the
formal grievance does not comply with IDOC policy, the Grievance Specialist
returns the grievance to the inmate with an explanation about why it was
returned. Id. The inmate then has five business days to submit a revised formal
grievance. Id. If the formal grievance complies with IDOC policy, the Grievance
Specialist assigns a log number and enters it into the record-keeping system.
Dkt. 60-1 at ¶ 14.
An inmate initiates a first level appeal by completing State Form 45473
and submitting it to the Grievance Specialist. Id. at 11-12. If an inmate is
dissatisfied with the response to his first level appeal or he does not receive a
response within the applicable timeframe, he may pursue a final appeal to the
IDOC Grievance Manager. Id. at 12-13.
Mr. Taylor's Use of the Administrative Remedy Procedure
Mr. Taylor was incarcerated at Pendleton in December 2019. Dkt. 1 at 5.
He alleges that he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment and inhumane
treatment from December 28, 2019, until January 16, 2020, at which time he
was transferred to Westville Correctional Facility ("Westville"). Dkt. 1 at 41-42.
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Mr. Taylor initiated the Grievance Process by submitting an informal grievance
to staff at Pendleton on January 10, 2020. Dkt. 60-4 at 2, 4.
On January 27, 2020, after his transfer to Westville, Mr. Taylor submitted
a formal grievance about the conditions of his confinement at Pendleton.
Dkt. 60-4 at 3. Christina Conyers, the Grievance Specialist at Pendleton,
returned the formal grievance to Mr. Taylor on January 31, 2020. Dkt. 60-4 at
2. The Return of Grievance form noted the following deficiencies:
You have submitted the form too early. The situation you described does
not exist yet, or you have not allowed enough time for an informal
resolution. If you cannot show good cause for submitting it now, you must
wait until the correct time has come.
The grievance form is not completely filled out. Only 1 date per grievance.
Complete the form and resubmit it again within five (5) business days.
You submitted grievances at [Westville] on 1/27/20, 5 business days after
your transfer, you could [have] submitted before your transfer.
Please allow staff 5 business days to respond to your [informal grievance],
you submitted informal to staff on 1/10/20, left [Pendleton] on 1/16/20.
Mr. Taylor states that he submitted a corrected formal grievance on
February 3, 2020, by placing it in the mail at Westville. Dkt. 63 at 10. Ms.
Conyers claims that Mr. Taylor did not submit a corrected formal grievance. Dkt.
60-1 at ¶ 17. Mr. Harvil, the Grievance Specialist at Westville, states that he did
not receive a corrected formal grievance from Mr. Taylor, but he acknowledges
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that Mr. Taylor could have submitted a corrected formal grievance to Pendleton
by placing it in the mail. Dkt. 66-1 at ¶¶ 13, 16.
On February 13, 2020, Mr. Taylor sent a Request for Interview ("ROI") to
Mr. Harvil stating that he had not received a receipt or other acknowledgement
for the corrected formal grievance. 1 Dkt. 62-1 at 2. Mr. Harvil states that he did
not receive this ROI. Dkt. 66-1 at ¶ 6. Mr. Taylor submitted three additional ROIs
to Mr. Harvil in March 2020 inquiring about the status of the corrected formal
grievance he submitted in February 2020. Dkt. 62-1 at 3-5. Mr. Harvil provided
copies of Mr. Taylor's original formal grievance in response but did not address
Mr. Taylor's statements that he submitted a corrected formal grievance on
February 3, 2020. Id.
Mr. Harvil did not provide the grievance appeal forms that Mr. Taylor
requested. Id.; see also dkt. 63 at 14-15. Mr. Harvil states that he does not
provide grievance appeal forms for grievances filed at other facilities because the
other facilities send the appeal form when the inmate returns the grievance
response disagreeing with the response. Dkt. 66-1 at ¶ 15. Mr. Taylor has
designated evidence, however, that identifies Mr. Harvil as the person to contact
to obtain grievance appeal forms. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 12.
The Grievance Policy states: "If an offender does not receive either a receipt or
a rejected form from the [Grievance Specialist] within five (5) business days of
submitting it, the offender shall notify the [Grievance Specialist] of that fact . . . ."
See dkt. 60-2 at 9. Mr. Taylor's ROI was submitted on February 13, 2020, which
was eight business days after he allegedly submitted his corrected formal
grievance. Neither party addresses whether Mr. Taylor was required to comply
with this aspect of the Grievance Policy to exhaust available administrative
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The PLRA requires that an inmate exhaust his available administrative
remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a); see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). "[T]he PLRA's
exhaustion requirement 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." Id. at 532 (citation omitted). The
requirement to exhaust provides "that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a
supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has
been exhausted." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006) (citation omitted).
Exhaustion of available administrative remedies "means using all steps
that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses
the issues on the merits)."). Id. at 90. Proper use of the facility's grievance system
requires an inmate "to file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time
[as] the prison's administrative rules require." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d
1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th
While an inmate "must exhaust available remedies," he "need not exhaust
unavailable ones." Ross v. Blake, 136 S. Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016). An
administrative procedure is unavailable when 1) the process operates as a
"simple dead end," 2) the process is so opaque that it is incapable of use, or
3) "prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance
process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation." Id. at 18597
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60. It is the State Defendants' burden to establish that the administrative
process was available to Mr. Taylor and he failed to exhaust it. Thomas v. Reese,
787 F.3d 845, 847 (7th Cir. 2015) ("Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense,
the defendant must establish that an administrative remedy was available and
that [the plaintiff] failed to pursue it.").
The State Defendants contend that Mr. Taylor did not exhaust the
available administrative remedy process because he did not submit a corrected
formal grievance after Ms. Conyers rejected his original formal grievance.2
Dkt. 59 at 10-11. Mr. Taylor argues that the Grievance Process was not available
to him because Mr. Harvil did not respond to the corrected formal grievance and
did not provide grievance appeal forms. Dkt. 64 at 4-7.
There is a material factual dispute as to whether Mr. Taylor submitted a
corrected formal grievance. Mr. Taylor states that he put a corrected formal
grievance in the mail at Westville on February 3, 2020. Dkt. 63 at 10. The State
Defendants claim that Mr. Taylor did not submit a corrected formal grievance.
Dkt. 60-1 at ¶ 17; dkt. 66-1 at ¶ 13. This factual dispute is material because Mr.
Taylor was required to submit a corrected formal grievance to exhaust available
In their reply, the State Defendants assert a new argument—that Mr. Taylor
failed to exhaust available administrative remedies because his original formal
grievance was untimely. Dkt. 66 at 2-3. The Court will not address this argument
because "arguments raised for the first time in a reply brief are waived." Wonsey
v. City of Chicago, 940 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2019).
Case 1:20-cv-02413-JPH-MPB Document 89 Filed 11/18/21 Page 9 of 9 PageID #: 762
Mr. Taylor's motion to resolve exhaustion defense, dkt. , is granted to
the extent the Court considered the evidence and arguments contained therein.
The State Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is denied. The
State Defendants shall have through December 17, 2021, in which to notify
the Court in writing either that they have abandoned their affirmative defense of
exhaustion or that they request a hearing to resolve the factual disputes detailed
QUENTIN L. TAYLOR
PENDLETON - CF
PENDLETON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
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