Murray #658410 v. Guernsey et al
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 13 re 9 : Defendant Guernsey's Motion 9 for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiff's complaint 1 is DISMISSED; case closed; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:11-cv-1045
HON. GORDON J. QUIST
HANNA M. GUERNSEY,
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND
REJECTING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
On May 31, 2012, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“R & R”)
(docket no. 13) recommending that Defendant Hanna Guernsey’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(docket no. 9) be granted, that the state claims alleged by plaintiff be dismissed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), and that this case be dismissed. Plaintiff filed Objections to the R & R.
(Docket no. 14.) “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the Magistrate Judge’s
disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). After conducting a de
novo review of the R & R, Plaintiff’s Objections, and the pertinent portions of the record, the Court
adopts in part and rejects in part the R & R. Yet, Guernsey’s Motion for Summary Judgment will
still be granted, Plaintiff’s state law claims will be dismissed, and the case will be dismissed.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The R & R concluded that Guernsey’s motion for summary judgment should be granted
because Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies against Guernsey. The R
& R said that Plaintiff’s grievance did not comply with MDOC’s policy that the grievance include
the “[d]ates, times, place and names of all those involved in the issue being grieved.” (R & R at 6
(citing MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130 ¶ R).) Specifically, in the sole grievance that Plaintiff
exhausted, Plaintiff did not identify Guernsey or any other particular person, but simply referred to
“dental.” (Id.) Besides not naming Guernsey in the grievance, Plaintiff did not allege any of the
factual allegations that form the basis of his § 1983 complaint against Guernsey. (Id.) In addition,
the R & R said that “there is no evidence that the MDOC construed plaintiff’s vague grievance as
incorporating claims against defendant Guernsey.” (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiff argues that he properly
exhausted his claim against Guernsey.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act exhaustion requirement “requires proper exhaustion.”
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006). A claim is considered properly exhausted after a prisoner
invokes one complete round of a prison’s grievance procedures and receives a merits-based response
at each step. Reed-Bey v. Pramstaller, 603 F.3d 322, 326 (6th Cir. 2010). The procedural bar does
not apply where the State declines to enforce its own procedural rules. Id. at 325. Here, prison
officials declined to enforce MDOC’s policy that a prisoner filing a grievance include the name of
individuals in the initial grievance. In addition, Plaintiff received a merits-based response at each
step: the grievance responses conclude that Plaintiff received dental care that conformed to MDOC
policy and procedure. (Docket no. 11-1 at 5.) Therefore, Guernsey cannot now assert that Plaintiff
did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies for failing to name particular individuals. This
was the exact issue confronted in Reed-Bey and the same outcome reached by the Sixth Circuit. Id.
at 324-26 (finding that a plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies despite failing to
name a single individual in his initial grievance because the plaintiff received a merits-based
response to his grievance). Thus, Plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies before
filing his complaint against Guernsey.
In addition, Plaintiff’s allegations against Guernsey are the same allegations addressed in the
grievance. His grievance complained that “dental” ignored his Health Care Requests for a lengthy
period of time. (Docket no. 11-1 at 2.) Moreover, Plaintiff grieved that his pain medications were
insufficient. (Id.) Similarly, Plaintiff’s complaint states that Guernsey treated Plaintiff’s health care
requests with “snide indifference” and that Guernsey lied to Plaintiff regarding his ability to receive
pain medication at the prison store. (Docket no. 1 at ¶¶ 10-12.) Thus, in this Court’s opinion, the
merits-based response that Plaintiff received from his grievance addresses the same allegations made
towards Guernsey in Plaintiff’s complaint. Therefore, Plaintiff’s objection is granted and the Court
declines to adopt this portion of the R & R.
Amending Complaint against Defendant Phillips
Plaintiff also objects that he should be allowed to amend his complaint against Defendant
Phillips. First, Plaintiff has not filed an amended complaint and, therefore, the Court cannot
determine whether an amended complaint would be futile. See Roskam Baking Co. v. Lanham
Mach. Co., 288 F.3d 895, 906-07 (6th Cir. 2007). Second, if Plaintiff seeks to amend for the reasons
in his objections, Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend will be denied. Plaintiff reiterates that his
allegations towards Phillips are based upon Phillips’ response to Plaintiff’s grievance. (Pl.’s
Objections at 4.) However, as this Court said when it dismissed Phillips, § 1983 liability may not
be imposed simply because a supervisor denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based
upon information contained in a grievance. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 200 (6th Cir.
1999). Therefore, insofar as Plaintiff’s objection is a request to amend his complaint, his objection
Unaddressed Portions of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
Guernsey also moved for summary judgment on the ground that she was entitled to qualified
immunity. Guernsey “maintains that plaintiff has failed to show the violation of a clearly
established constitutional right, and that all of her actions were objectively reasonable under the
circumstances.” (Docket no. 10 at 12-13.)
“Once a defendant raises qualified immunity, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate
that the official is not entitled to qualified immunity.” Simmonds v. Genesee Cnty., — F.3d —, 2012
WL 2290981, at *4 (6th Cir. June 19, 2012) (quotation and alteration omitted). “To defeat the
qualified immunity bar, a plaintiff must present evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue as to
whether the defendant committed the acts that violated the law.” Id. (citation omitted). “As the
qualified immunity inquiry arises in the summary judgment context, to create the requisite genuine
issue of material fact, the plaintiff must raise ‘disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law . . . .’” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986)). Such a dispute is only considered a genuine issue “‘if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S.
“To satisfy the first Saucier prong and establish a constitutional violation to defeat the
[defendant’s] claim of qualified immunity, [the plaintiff] is obliged to present facts which if true
would constitute a violation of clearly established [constitutional] law.” Id. at *6 (quotation
omitted). Plaintiff must “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
Eighth Amendment Claim
Plaintiff must show that Guernsey was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s serious medical
needs. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 102, 104-05 (1976). An Eighth Amendment claim of
inadequate medical care has two prongs, an objective and subjective component. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). With regard to the subjective component, Plaintiff must show
that Guernsey had “a sufficiently culpable state of mind in denying medical care.” Brown v.
Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). Deliberate
indifference “entails something more than mere negligence,” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835, but can be
“satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with
knowledge that harm will result.” Id.
Previously, this Court allowed Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against Guernsey to
proceed because of the allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint. In Plaintiff’s complaint, he states that
Guernsey “is responsible for answering inmate Health Care Request Forms and with scheduling
inmate dental appointments, and assisting the dentist when needed.” (Compl. ¶ 6.) On or about
March 24, 2010, through around February 24, 2011, Guernsey allegedly received Plaintiff’s Health
Care Requests, which complained of being in constant pain, with “snide indifference.” (Id. ¶ 10.)
In addition, around January 24, 2011, Guernsey responded to one of the requests by telling Plaintiff
to purchase pain medication from the Prisoner Store, even though Guernsey knew that Plaintiff
supposedly could not purchase pain medication from the prisoner store. (Id. ¶ 11.) Last, on
February 25, 2011, Guernsey allegedly replied to one of Plaintiff’s requests with “Scheduled as time
permits.” (Id. at ¶ 12.)
Plaintiff’s allegations in his complaint, by themselves, are insufficient to withstand summary
judgment. See Simmonds, — F.3d —, 2012 WL 2290981, at *6 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324,
106 S. Ct. at 2553). However, two of Plaintiff’s motions have been submitted in the form of
affidavits, (docket nos. 11 & 14), along with an exhibit (the responses to his grievance), (docket no.
11-1), both of which are forms of evidence that can be considered for purposes of refuting
Guernsey’s instant motion. See id. However, the properly considered evidence expressly refutes
Plaintiff’s allegations that Guernsey acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s serious medical
In one affidavit, Plaintiff states that “Defendant Guernsey processed plaintiff[’s] repeated
requests for treatment to his serious medical needs.” In other words, Guernsey was not indifferent
to his needs; she processed Plaintiff’s requests in accord with her responsibilities. In addition,
according to Plaintiff’s exhibit, he had the following dental work scheduled and completed:
Grievant has been on the restorative and prophylaxis list as of March 1, 2010. On
September 21, 2010 grievant has [sic] his dental examination and on September 22,
2010 grievants [sic] dental prophylaxis was completed. On February 9, 2011
grievants [sic] fillings were completed. On March 4, 2011 grievant was called out
for extraction of tooth #16.
(Docket no. 11-1 at 5.) Furthermore, Plaintiff’s exhibit indicates that the Acting Regional Dental
Director thought that MDOC’s “policy and procedure” had been followed. (Id.) All of these events
occurred during the time that Guernsey allegedly acted with “snide indifference.” But of course,
such evidence expressly refutes the allegation that Guernsey acted with snide indifference, rather
a reasonable jury could only find that Guernsey did not act with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s
dental needs; the evidence indicates that Guernsey “processed” Plaintiff’s requests and scheduled
Plaintiff to have his dental work completed, which was, in fact, completed.
Plaintiff’s allegations tell a very different story than the evidence that he submits. The crux
of Plaintiff’s complaint is that Guernsey and the dental department delayed giving him dental
treatment over too long of a period. Even if it can be said that such prolongation amounts to the
denial of serious medical needs that rises to the level of an Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff’s
affidavits and exhibit contain no evidence that Guernsey, as opposed to someone else in the dental
department or the general lack of prison services, caused the lengthy denial of services. Rather, and
as discussed above, Plaintiff’s evidence refutes the contention that Guernsey caused any delay:
Plaintiff alleges that Guernsey began ignoring Plaintiff’s requests in March 2010, (compl. ¶¶ 10, 21),
but Plaintiff’s evidence shows that he was put on the restorative and prophylaxis list in March 2010,
(docket no. 11-1 at 5); Plaintiff alleges that Guernsey responded to a Health Care Request on
January 24, 2011, (compl. ¶ 11), and Plaintiff’s evidence shows that he received fillings a short time
later, (docket no. 11-1 at 5); Plaintiff alleges that Guernsey advised him to get non-existent pain
medication from the prison store, (compl. ¶ 11), but his pre-lawsuit grievance states that Plaintiff
had access to pain medications from the prison store, (docket no. 11-1 at 2); Plaintiff alleges that
Guernsey responded to a Health Care Request on February 25, 2011, (compl. ¶ 12), and Plaintiff’s
evidence shows that he received dental care a short time later, on March 4, 2011. In sum, the
evidence provided by Plaintiff shows that Guernsey performed her duties by scheduling treatment
for Plaintiff and that she did not cause a delay in Plaintiff’s dental care. Therefore, Guernsey did
not exhibit a deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs.1
Guernsey is entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff has not met his burden to come
forth with evidence that creates a genuine issue whether Guernsey acted with deliberate indifference
to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs. Hence, Plaintiff’s claim against Guernsey in her individual
capacity will be dismissed.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required
to dismiss at any time any prisoner action if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (emphasis added); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claim
against Guernsey in her official capacity also will be dismissed because of Plaintiff’s complete lack of evidence of any
wrong-doing or deliberate indifference by Guernsey.
Due Process Claim
In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Guernsey violated his right to due process by failing
to schedule Plaintiff for a dental examination. Plaintiff does not, however, in response to
Guernsey’s assertion of qualified immunity, argue that Guernsey violated Plaintiff’s right to due
process. See Dillery v. City of Sandusky, 398 F.3d 562, 569 (6th Cir. 2005) (“It is well-established
that ‘issues adverted to in a perfunctory manner, unaccompanied by some effort at developed
argumentation, are deemed waived.’” (quotation omitted)).
Therefore, Plaintiff has not
demonstrated that Guernsey is not entitled to qualified immunity. See Simmonds, — F.3d —, 2012
WL 2290981, at *4. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s due process claim against Guernsey will be dismissed.2
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Guernsey in her official capacity,
his claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Barker v. Goodrich, 649 F.3d 428, 433 (6th
Cir. 2011); U.S. Const. Amend. XI. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Guernsey in her
official capacity seeking monetary damages will be dismissed because the claims are barred by the
State Law Claims
Even though this Court rejected the R & R’s analysis regarding administrative exhaustion,
this Court has also concluded, like the R & R, that all of Plaintiff’s federal claims should be
dismissed. Thus, the Court adopts the R & R insofar as it recommended that this Court decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s state
law claims will be dismissed. Since no claims will remain, the case will be dismissed. Therefore,
Similar to Footnote 1, supra, Plaintiff’s due process claim against Guernsey in her official capacity also will
be dismissed because it has no factual basis and is without legal support.
In addition, Footnotes 1 and 2 are separate bases to dismiss the claims against Guernsey in her official
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Objections (docket no. 14) are granted in part
and overruled in part. Plaintiff’s Objection that Plaintiff’s claim against Guernsey was not
administratively exhausted is granted. Plaintiff’s Objections are overruled in all other regards.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the R & R (docket no. 13) is rejected in part and
adopted in part. The R & R is rejected insofar as it recommends that Plaintiff did not
administratively exhaust his claim against Guernsey. The R & R is adopted in all other regards.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Guernsey’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(docket no. 9) is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s complaint (docket no. 1) is dismissed.
A separate Judgment will be entered.
This case is concluded before this Court.
Dated: June 26, 2012
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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