Smith v. St. Louis City Jails et al
OPINION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction, [Doc. No. 4], is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 17], granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaint iffs Motion to Dismiss Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 22], is denied. A separate judgment in accordance with this Opinion, Memorandum and Order is entered this same date. 4 22 17 Signed by District Judge Henry Edward Autrey on 1/27/16. (CLA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
LARRY V. SMITH,
ST. LOUIS CITY JAILS, et al.
CASE NO. 4:15CV439 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, [Doc. No. 4], Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No.
17], and Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment, [Doc. No. 22]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for
Preliminary Injunction is denied; the motion for summary judgment is granted; and
the motion to dismiss the motion for summary judgment is denied.
Plaintiff, formerly an inmate at the St. Louis City Medium Security
Institution, commenced this action by filing a pro se complaint and motion to
proceed in forma pauperis on March 9, 2015. Plaintiff brought separate claims for
medical mistreatment, unlawful strip searches, denial of access to the courts, and
Plaintiff alleged that he has a history of significant spinal problems and back
pain. Before arriving at the Jail, he was prescribed a fentanyl transdermal patch,
gabapentin, oxycodone, baclofen, and naproxen by a pain specialist.
Plaintiff says that defendant Dr. Nwabbasi of Corizon, Inc., told him he would not
be given any fentanyl patches or oxycodone for his pain. Plaintiff had only been
given baclofen and naproxen at the Jail. Plaintiff claimed he was suffering
excruciating pain and that he could not sleep for more than two hours at a time.1
Defendant Nwaobasi has filed a statement (Doc. No. 6-2) of undisputed facts
that reads as follows:
1. Plaintiff Larry Smith was incarcerated at St. Louis City Justice Center
(“SLCJC”) at all times relevant to this lawsuit. (Doc. 1).
2. The St. Louis City Division of Corrections Grievance Procedure provides
that an inmate must file an informal resolution request within ten (10) days
of an incident. (See Exhibit B, Certified Policy No. 3.3.3. “Inmate
Grievance,” Section VII (3), (6)).
3. A grievance is not considered exhausted unless and until the inmate
successfully completes three levels: the informal resolution procedure,
formal grievance procedure, and an appeal. (Exhibit B, Certified Policy N
o. 3.3.3. “Inmate Grievance,” Section V “Exhaustion”).
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Glass, Edwards, Harry, Fields, Weber, A’viand, and Mallard were dismissed
without prejudice as unrelated to his claim of deprivation of serious medical needs on March 18, 2015.
4. Inmates are provided access to the grievance procedure regardless of
disciplinary status, housing location or classification, and all inmates are
provided the opportunity to file complaints in a timely and confidential
manner. (Exhibit B, Certified Policy No. 3.3.3. “Inmate Grievance,” Section
5. Plaintiff did not file any grievances at SLCJC regarding any of his
allegations against Dr. Nwaobasi. (Exhibit A, Affidavit of Jamie Lambing).
When deciding whether to grant a prisoner preliminary injunctive relief, a court
must consider: (1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the balance
between the harm to the movant and the harm to the nonmoving party should the
injunction issue; (3) the likelihood of success on the merits; and (4) the public
interest. Amzen v. Palmer, 713 F.3d 369, 372 (8th Cir.2013). Importantly, the
movant bears the burden of establishing that he is entitled to a preliminary
injunction. Roudachevski v. All–Am. Care Ctrs., Inc., 648 F.3d 701, 705 (8th
Cir.2011). Additionally, the Eighth Circuit has emphasized that “in the prison
context, a request for injunctive relief must always be viewed with great caution
because judicial restraint is especially called for in dealing with the complex and
intractable problems of prison administration.” Goff v. Harper, 60 F.3d 518, 520
Plaintiff has not produced any evidence demonstrating that he will succeed on
the merits of his inadequate medical care claim or that he will be irreparably
harmed if he does not receive preliminary relief. Plaintiff has not provided any
evidence, such as sick call requests or grievance forms, to support his allegations.
Thus, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy his burden of
demonstrating that he is entitled to preliminary injunctive relief.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS
Any party may move for summary judgment regarding all or any part of the
claims asserted in a case. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate
when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A material fact is one that “ ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.’ ” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
“the substantive law will identify which facts are material.” Id. Facts that are
“critical” under the substantive law are material, while facts that are “irrelevant or
unnecessary” are not. Id.
An issue of material fact is genuine if it has a real basis in the record,
Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), or when “ ‘a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party’ on the question.”
Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Evidence that only provides “some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts,” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, or evidence that is
“merely colorable” or “not significantly probative,” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50,
does not make an issue of material fact genuine.
As such, a genuine dispute of material fact requires “sufficient evidence
supporting the claimed factual dispute” so as to “require a jury or judge to resolve
the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.
The party moving for entry of summary judgment bears “the initial responsibility
of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of
the record which show a lack of a genuine issue.” Hartnagel, 953 F.2d at 395
(citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). Once the moving party has met this burden, the
nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by depositions, affidavits, or
otherwise, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005). The nonmovant
must show an alleged issue of fact is genuine and material as it relates to the
substantive law. If a party fails to make a sufficient showing of an essential
element of a claim or defense with respect to which that party has the burden of
proof, then the opposing party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 323.
In determining if a genuine issue of material fact is present, the Court must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita,
475 U.S. at 587-88. Further, the Court must give the nonmoving party the benefit
of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the facts. Id. However,
“because we view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, we
do not weigh the evidence or attempt to determine the credibility of the witnesses.”
Kammueller v. Loomis, Fargo & Co., 383 F.3d 779, 784 (8th Cir. 2004). Instead,
“the court's function is to determine whether a dispute about a material fact is
genuine.” Quick v. Donaldson Co., Inc., 90 F.3d 1372, 1376-77 (8th Cir. 1996).
Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by the denial of
medical care while in custody at the St. Louis Jail. In seeking summary judgment,
Defendant relies entirely on the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which
governs actions regarding prison conditions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
or any other federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Based on the nature of Plaintiff’s
claim, it is clear that the PLRA applies here. Id.
Among other things, the PLRA states that “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions ... until such administrative remedies as are available
are exhausted.” Id. This exhaustion requirement applies to any inmate lawsuit
based on prison conditions, regardless of whether the lawsuit revolves around
general circumstances or particular incidents and whether the lawsuit alleges
excessive force or some other wrong. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
It requires that all prisoner-plaintiffs must first exhaust all available administrative
remedies prior to bringing a lawsuit. Id. Failure to exhaust all available
administrative remedies is grounds for mandatory dismissal. Chelette v. Harris,
229 F.3d 684, 688 (8th Cir. 2000). The available remedies must be properly
exhausted in compliance with all prison grievance procedures, deadlines or
preconditions. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). The prison's requirements
for grievance procedures, not the PLRA, define the specific remedies that must be
exhausted and the manner for doing so. Id.; see also King v. Iowa Dep't of Corr.,
598 F.3d 1051, 1053-54 (8th Cir. 2010).
Prisoners are excused from exhausting administrative remedies “when
officials have prevented prisoners from utilizing the procedures, or when officials
themselves have failed to comply with the grievance procedures.” Gibson v.
Weber, 431 F.3d 339, 341 (8th Cir. 2005). This is because “a remedy that prison
officials prevent a prisoner from ‘utiliz[ing]’ is not an ‘available’ remedy.” Miller
v. Norris, 247 F.3d 736, 740 (8th Cir. 2001); see also Foulk v. Charrier, 262 F.3d
687, 697–98 (8th Cir. 2001) (defendant did not establish a failure to exhaust where
prison officials did not respond to inmate's initial request).
Failure to exhaust remedies under PLRA is an affirmative defense. Bock,
549 U.S. at 216. As such, the defendant bears the burden of proving that the
prisoner-plaintiff failed to exhaust all available remedies. Foulk, 262 F.3d at 697.
Defendant has met his initial burden “of informing the district court of the
basis for [his] motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any,’ which [he] believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56). His submitted affidavit
supports findings that the Jail had grievance procedures in place, that Plaintiff was
advised of those procedures and that he did not avail himself of those procedures.
Thus, Defendant’s argument is simple: Plaintiff failed to exhaust all available
remedies because he failed to submit a single grievance while incarcerated at the
The more-difficult question is whether Plaintiff has met his burden, as the
nonmoving party, of going “beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or
by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,’
designat[ing] ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’ ”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. It is apparent from Plaintiff’s filings that he claims to
have made multiple attempts to file grievances about the alleged denial of medical
In his Motion to Dismiss Defendant’s Summary Judgment Motion, Plaintiff
alleges that he tried to exhaust his administrative remedies, starting with the
Grievance procedure I.R.R. prior to filing his lawsuit. His only reference to any
form of grievance procedures is a statement that there is “merit on foul-play and
obstruction to plaintiff’s trying to file the Grievance procedure by deliberately
losing or throwing away the I.R.R.. Plaintiff Larry V. Smith filed and tried to
Resolute the medical care and treatment solution he was seeking.” Id. at 3.
Based on Plaintiff’s allegations, he contends both (a) that he actually
exhausted available administrative remedies and (b) that jail officials took steps to
prevent him from exhausting those remedies. The question is whether he has met
his burden of coming forward with evidence supporting these allegations.
Although Plaintiff’s Motion is notarized, he did not submit any evidentiary
materials in support of his Motion to Dismiss to demonstrate the he made any
efforts to comply with the jail's grievance procedures. Instead, his allegations
concerning the exhaustion of remedies, and prevention of such exhaustion, are
completely self-serving and lacking evidentiary support. Those statements are not
sufficient to resist a motion for summary judgment. While it may be harsh to
require a pro se inmate to meet the technical evidentiary requirements necessary to
prevent the entry of summary judgment, the law in this circuit compels that result.
As for documentary evidence, Plaintiff’s pleadings do not demonstrate that he
complied with the jail's grievance procedures with regard to his medical needs.
In short, Plaintiff has submitted insufficient evidence contradicting
Defendant’s version of events with regard to the exhaustion of available remedies.
Defendant has established that the Jail maintains inmate files in the regular
course of its operations. Those files include copies of any grievances. Id. The jail's
records reflect that Plaintiff did not submit a written grievance relating to medical
treatment or any other issue while he was incarcerated at the jail. These
undisputed facts demonstrate that Plaintiff did not exhaust all available
administrative remedies, as required by the PLRA. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). As
such, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
For the reasons set forth herein, accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, [Doc. No. 4], is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment, [Doc. No. 17], granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 22], is denied.
A separate judgment in accordance with this Opinion, Memorandum and
Order is entered this same date.
Dated this 27th day of January, 2016.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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