Hamilton v. Russell et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER : IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion of defendant Margaret Huff for summary judgment [Doc. # 92 ] is denied. re: MOTION for Summary Judgment Due to Plaintiff's Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies filed by Defendant Margaret Huff. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 7/1/15. (KKS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JAMES J. HAMILTON,
JONNA GRUBBS, et al.,
Case No. 4:14-CV-766-CEJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendant Margaret Huff for
summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The issues are fully briefed.
Plaintiff James J. Hamilton brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Hamilton is imprisoned at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional
Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
Huff is a correctional officer at the
ERDCC. In Count VI of his fourth amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that while he
was confined in administrative segregation on March 13, 2014, Huff confiscated his
Plaintiff alleges that Huff knew that the shoes were
necessary for treatment of his diabetic neuropathy, but she was callously indifferent
to his medical needs. Huff moves for summary judgment because the undisputed
facts demonstrate plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to the
claim against her before filing this suit.
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary
judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows “that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment the court is required
to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give
that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying
facts. AgriStor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving
party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 586–87 (1986).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-
moving party may not rest on the allegations of his pleadings but must set forth
specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of
material fact exists. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. v. Honea, 458 F.3d 788, 791
(8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
Rule 56 “mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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 Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A prisoner’s § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to his medical needs
typically may only proceed if the prisoner has first exhausted all of his available
intra-prison administrative remedies.
U.S. 199, 211 (2007).
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Jones v. Bock, 549
But “[n]onexhaustion is an affirmative defense, and
defendants have the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion.”
Porter v. Sturm, 781 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing Jones, 549 U.S. at 211–
It is undisputed that plaintiff did not submit an Informal Resolution Request
(IRR) in which he complained that his shoes were confiscated. Filing an IRR is the
requisite first stage to exhaust a prisoner’s administrative remedies in Missouri.
See id. at 450 (discussing the Missouri Department of Corrections’s grievance
procedures). Therefore, plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies on
his claim against Huff before filing this suit.
However, “inmates cannot be held to the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA
when prison officials have prevented them from exhausting their administrative
remedies.” Lyon v. Vande Krol, 305 F.3d 806, 808 (8th Cir. 2002) (en banc). The
exception applies where, inter alia, a prisoner was “prevented from exhausting his
administrative remedies when prison officials failed to respond to his requests for
grievance forms . . . .”
Id. (citing Miller v. Norris, 247 F.3d 736, 740 (8th Cir.
Plaintiff submitted a declaration in which he states that he attempted to file
an IRR to complain that Huff had confiscated his shoes, but he was prevented from
doing so. According to his declaration, plaintiff requested an IRR from Huff when
she took the shoes; she refused to provide him with one. That day, plaintiff wrote
a letter to the caseworker who oversees the segregation unit, complaining that Huff
confiscated the shoes and requesting an IRR. He placed the letter under the door
of his cell, from which it was taken by the guards. He received no response to the
letter, and he did not receive an IRR.
Over the next nineteen days plaintiff wrote four additional letters addressing
the same concerns and requesting an IRR. Though all of the letters were retrieved
by the guards, plaintiff received no response, and he was not provided with an IRR.
Plaintiff also verbally requested an IRR from the functional unit manager of the
segregation unit, defendant Alan Butterworth, who refused to provide one. If true,
plaintiff’s failure to exhaust is excused because he was prevented from doing so.
Huff does not provide evidence to directly contradict plaintiff’s account. She
merely points out that while plaintiff was in segregation, he signed a returned copy
of an IRR he had already initiated before he was transferred to segregation and his
shoes were taken. He also filed a grievance to escalate that IRR to the next stage
of administrative review. That plaintiff did not add a new claim to a long-existing
grievance about a separate incident does not rebut his declaration that he sought to
file a new IRR and was prevented from doing so. It demonstrates at most that he
was attempting to follow the appropriate procedures to raise and exhaust a new
Accordingly, a genuine dispute of material fact remains over whether
plaintiff was prevented from exhausting his claim.
Therefore, Huff’s motion for
summary judgment will be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion of defendant Margaret Huff for
summary judgment [Doc. #92] is denied.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 1st day of July, 2015.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?