Reynolds v. Smith et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 98 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Luke Meeker, Jennifer Roach, Cynthia Bartlett, Dean McCombs, Officer Calhoun, Ginine Trim, Sheri Duffey, Linda Woods, Robert W Smith, Officer Owens. It is RECOMMENDED that Defendants' Motion be DENIED. Objections to R&R due by 5/18/2015. Signed by Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King on 5/1/2015. (pes)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Civil Action 2:11-cv-277
Magistrate Judge King
ROBERT W. SMITH, et al.,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff, formerly an inmate at the Ohio Reformatory for Women
(“ORW”),1 brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that
defendant Corrections Officer Robert W. Smith sexually assaulted her
and that the remaining defendants failed to protect her in violation
of plaintiff’s rights under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution. This matter is now
before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment As It
Pertains to the Mandatory Precondition of Exhaustion of Administrative
Remedies Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) of 42
U.S.C. § 1997e, ECF 98 (“Motion”).
For the reasons that follow, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Motion be DENIED.2
Plaintiff is currently under Adult Parole Authority (“APA”) supervision in
Because the Court can resolve the Motion on the parties’ filings,
plaintiff’s request for oral argument, see Plaintiff Dorothea Reynolds’s
Brief in Opposition to the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF 106,
p. i (pagination appearing at bottom of the page) (“Opposition”), is denied.
ODRC Policy Prohibiting Unauthorized Relationships
The Ohio Department and Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”)
has promulgated a policy in order “to establish the mandate that
department employees, contractors and volunteers maintain a
professional relationship with all persons under the supervision of
the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and that any
relationship other than a professional relationship  be properly
reported and authorized.”
ODRC Policy Number 31-SEM-07, ECF 101-2, p.
1 (“Unauthorized Relationships Policy”).
include sexual misconduct, sexual contact and sexual assault, which
are defined as the following:
Sexual Misconduct – Any behavior or act of a sexual nature
directed toward an offender by an employee, volunteer,
visitor or agency representative. This includes acts or
attempts to commit such acts including, but not limited to,
sexual assault, kissing, sexual harassment, sexual contact,
conduct of a sexual nature or implication, obscenity and
unreasonable invasion of privacy. Sexual misconduct also
includes, but is not limited to, conversations or
correspondence which suggests a romantic or sexual
relationship between an offender and any party mentioned
Sexual Contact – Includes, but is not limited to, all forms
of sexual contact, intentional sexual touching or physical
contact in a sexual manner, either directly or through
clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breasts, inner
thighs, buttocks, with or without the consent of the
person; or any unwanted touching with intent to arouse,
humiliate, harass, degrade or gratify the sexual desire of
Assault - Any contact between the sex organ of one
and the sex organ, mouth or anus of another person,
intrusion of any part of the body of one person, or
object into the sex organ, mouth or anus of another
person, by the use of force or threat of force.
Id. “Engaging in an unauthorized relationship may result in employment
termination and or termination of the contractual or volunteer
Id. at 2.
“Any employee, contractor or volunteer who
becomes aware of or reasonably suspects that another employee,
contractor or volunteer is involved in an unauthorized relationship
has an affirmative duty to immediately report any such knowledge or
Id. at 3.
An employee’s failure to report such
knowledge or an employee’s withholding of information “may be subject
to disciplinary action, up to and including removal.”
Id. at 4.
The Unauthorized Relationships Policy specifically requires that
inmates be advised during orientation that unauthorized relationships
Id. at 3.
The inmates “will be instructed on the
procedure for reporting unauthorized relationships.
shall also be included in the inmate handbook/manual.”
may report any knowledge or suspicion of an unauthorized relationship
to any staff member.”
Id. at 4.
The Unauthorized Relationships
Policy requires that this reported information be immediately
communicated to one of the following:
the Inspector of Institutional
Services, the Investigator, or the Managing Officer.
Reporting Staff Behavior and the Inmate Grievance Procedure
In November 2008, shortly after she was first incarcerated at the
ORW, and in May and August 2009, plaintiff received a copy of an
inmate handbook, which had to be returned within 14 days of receipt.
ECF 98-2, PAGEID#:1047-1050 (copies of “Inmate Orientation
The inmate handbook instructs inmates to immediately
report sexual assaults to a prison staff member:
INMATE ON INMATE SEXUAL ASSAULT (Department Policy 79-ISA01)
If you are intimidated or are in fear of a sexual assault
from another inmate immediately report this to a staff
member or more than one staff member if necessary. You
may also kite the investigator directly or any other
staff member you feel comfortable reporting this to.
If you are sexually assaulted, immediately report it to a
prison staff member. Do not clean yourself, brush your
teeth, wash your clothes or do anything else that could
destroy evidence of the assault. The sooner you report
the assault the better the chances evidence can be
obtained that will help prove the assault.
The Ohio Reformatory for Women Inmate Handbook, ECF 98-5, p. 9
See also Deposition of Marta Raneri, ECF 103-1,
p. 44 (“Raneri Deposition”) (testifying that the same reporting rules
apply regardless of whether the sexual assault is inmate-on-inmate or
“All reported sexual assaults will be reported to
the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Each case will also be
Inmate Handbook, p. 10.
Deposition of Warden Sheri Duffey, ECF 105-1, pp. 52-53 (agreeing that
the only way the Ohio State Highway Patrol becomes involved in sexual
assault investigations is if the prison contacts the Patrol) (“Duffey
Ms. Raneri is ODRC’s Inspector of Institutional Services at the ORW whose
duties include monitoring the application and disposition of the inmate
grievance procedure at the ORW. Declaration of Marta Raneri, ECF 98-2,
PAGEID#:1046, ¶¶ 3-4, 8 (“Raneri Declaration”).
ORW’s policy is that as soon as a matter becomes a
criminal matter or could be a criminal matter, ORW’s administrative
rules, regulations, policies and procedures cease and the Ohio State
Highway Patrol takes over the matter.
Deposition of Cynthia Bartlett,
101-1, pp. 45-47 (“Bartlett Deposition).5
The Inmate Handbook goes on to advise that “[i]nmates who feel
they are victims of inappropriate supervision shall utilize the inmate
grievance procedure in accordance with Administrative Regulation 51209-31.”
Inmate Handbook, p. 10.
“A grievance is a complaint about a
violation of an Administrative Rule or Department Policy by the
institution or institutional staff that negatively affects the
All inmates in ODRC’s custody are given both written
and oral instructions on how to use the inmate grievance procedure.
Declaration of Eugene Hunyadi, ECF 98-1, ¶ 7 (“Hunyadi Declaration”).6
In November 2008, shortly after she was first incarcerated at the ORW,
and in May and August 2009, plaintiff received oral and written
instructions on the use of the inmate grievance procedure.
Declaration, ¶ 8; Exhibit A, ECF 98-2, PAGEID#:1047 (“Inmate
Orientation Checklist,” bearing plaintiff’s signatures dated November
7 and 12, 2008, and reflecting that she received verbal and written
explanations of the grievance system); Exhibit B, ECF 98-2,
PAGEID#:1048 (“Inmate Orientation Checklist,” bearing plaintiff’s
Defendant Duffey was ORW’s Warden between November 2007 and early June 2009.
Id. at 6.
Defendant Cynthia Bartlett is an investigator for ORW. Id. at 6.
Mr. Hunyadi is an ODRC Assistant Chief Inspector whose job duties include
handling inmate appeals and grievances. Id. at ¶ 2. He also serves as the
custodian for inmate appeals and direct grievances. Id.
signature dated November 24, 2008 and reflecting the same); Exhibit C,
ECF 98-2, PAGEID#:1049 (“Inmate Orientation Checklist,” bearing
plaintiff’s signature dated May 1, 2009 and reflecting the same); and
Exhibit D, ECF 98-2, PAGEID#:1050 (“Inmate Orientation Checklist,”
bearing plaintiff’s signature dated August 13, 2009 and reflecting the
same), attached thereto.
The inmate grievance procedure contains three steps.
Handbook, pp. 10-12 (including filing an informal complaint
resolution, notification of grievance and appeal of the inspector’s
disposition of the grievance).7
However, the Inmate Handbook
identifies situations where behavior could be reported directly to
staff or a supervisor.
Id. at 10, 12.
For example, “[i]n the event
an inmate feels the staff persons [sic] inappropriate behavior is
illegal or may jeopardize their safety, this should be reported
immediately to your unit staff or supervisor.”
Id. at 10.
addition, “[s]ome complaints need quick action, such as if you were
physically harmed, or have experienced an unreported sexual assault or
use of force.”
Id. at 12.
See also Duffey Deposition, pp. 23-25
(explaining that an informal complaint, the first step in the
grievance procedure, may be verbal); Raneri Deposition, p. 39
(confirming that a report of sexual assault is something that requires
Under these circumstances, inmates were
instructed to “let a supervisor know and then tell the Inspector.
you experience inappropriate supervision or retaliation, contact the
This three-step procedure is described more fully infra.
Inspector directly” who may then advise the inmate “to file a
grievance instead of starting with an Informal Complaint Resolution.”
Inmate Handbook, p. 12.
Ms. Raneri has never received a notification
of grievance regarding a sexual assault and defendant Duffey does not
recall an inmate using the grievance procedure to complain about
Raneri Deposition, p. 38; Duffey Deposition, pp.
During inmate orientation, Ms. Raneri also gave inmates,
including plaintiff, a copy of a sexual assault awareness pamphlet to
keep in the inmate’s cell; she also provided verbal instructions
regarding the pamphlet and sexual assault awareness and reporting such
Raneri Deposition, pp. 31-34, 36; ECF 103-2, PAGEID#:1370-
1371 (copy of sexual assault awareness pamphlet).
advises inmates that “[i]f you have been attacked or witness an
attack, but are unwilling to report it to institutional staff,” the
inmate may call and leave a message for central office staff who check
the messages daily.
ECF 103-2, PAGEID#:1371.
Ms. Raneri also
specifically advises inmates during orientation how to report sexual
If you are being intimidated or in fear
from another inmate, immediately report
member or more than one staff member if
also kite the inspector directly or any
you feel comfortable reporting this to.
utilize the inmate grievance procedure.
of a sexual assault
this to a staff
necessary. You may
other staff member
You may also
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Female Inmate Sexual
Assault Orientation, ECF 103-2, PAGEID#:1375.
See also Raneri
Deposition, pp. 39-41 (testifying that she goes over these various
reporting options with inmates during orientation).
Inmates were also advised at orientation that they may report
sexual assaults by calling a hotline, which may be called directly
from any inmate phone at no cost.
Deposition of Ginine M. Trim, ECF
104, pp. 42, 111 (“Trim Deposition”).
notices posted in all ORW housing units.
The hotline was listed on
Id. at 42; Raneri
Deposition, p. 31; ECF 101-2, PAGEID#:1185 (copy of poster, which
provides the hotline number and states, in part, “Sexual Assault Is An
Act of Violence. . . Reporting Sexual Assault Is A Step On The Road To
Recovery. . .” and that the hotline “[m]ay be called direct from any
inmate phone at no cost”).
In short, there are multiple “mechanisms,” “formal and informal
reporting structures,” for reporting sexual assaults at ORW:
a staff member; (2) kite an inspector or investigator; (3) call a
hotline; or (4) provide a written or verbal informal complaint
resolution or grievance.
See, e.g., Trim Deposition, pp. 36-37
(testifying that she spoke to inmates about “reporting mechanisms” for
reporting sexual assaults), 41 (testifying that she “certainly talked
to them [inmates] about formal and informal reporting structures”);
Inmate Handbook, pp. 9, 11-12;
Raneri Deposition, pp. 24, 31-34, 36,
41; Bartlett Deposition, p. 25; ECF 103-2, PAGEID#:1371 (pamphlet);
ECF 101-2, PAGEID#:1185 (poster); Ohio Department of Rehabilitation
Defendant Trim was named ORW’s temporary Warden in June 2009 and officially
became ORW’s Warden in August 2009. Id. at 6, 17.
and Correction Female Inmate Sexual Assault Orientation, ECF 103-2,
These procedures were designed to make the reporting of
a sexual assault to be as easy as possible.
See, e.g., Bartlett, pp.
Plaintiff’s Relationship with Defendant Smith
Plaintiff was incarcerated at the ORW from November 7, 2008 until
May 1, 2009.
Raneri Declaration, ¶ 6; Affidavit of Dorothea Reynolds,
ECF 106-1, ¶ 3 (“Plaintiff Affidavit”).
During this incarceration,
she was housed in a unit known as “Shirley 1,” which is where
defendant Smith worked.
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶ 4.
February 25, 2009, plaintiff’s cell was searched and a letter from
plaintiff addressed to defendant Smith was found (“the letter”).
at ¶ 5.
On March 2, 2009, defendant Cynthia Bartlett spoke with
plaintiff, who had been placed in “Arn 4,” i.e., segregation, because
of the letter.
Id. at ¶ 6; Bartlett Deposition, pp. 40-41.
told defendant Bartlett that defendant Smith had kissed her and had
touched her buttocks.
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶ 6; Bartlett Deposition,
Defendant Bartlett advised that plaintiff was defendant
Smith’s “type” “and that they had been trying to catch him for doing
things like this for years.”
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶ 6.
Plaintiff underwent a certified voice stress test (“CVSA”) which
addressed the topics of cigarettes, tobacco and whether defendant
Smith had touched and kissed her.
Deposition of Patrol Sergeant
Trooper Gamel S. Brimah, ECF 102-1, pp. 33-35 (“Brimah Deposition”).9
The test results indicated that plaintiff had been truthful.
Defendant Bartlett instructed plaintiff to report to her any
additional incidents involving defendant Smith.
¶ 7; Bartlett Deposition, p. 42.
She also gave plaintiff a phone
number and told plaintiff to check in on a weekly basis.
Deposition, p. 42.
When defendant Bartlett asked if plaintiff was
afraid to return to her cell area, plaintiff responded, “No.”
When plaintiff was released from Arn 4, she was returned to her unit,
Shirley 1, which was monitored by defendant Smith.
Affidavit, ¶ 8.
Defendant Bartlett did not speak with defendant Smith
after meeting with plaintiff while she was in segregation.
Deposition pp. 43-44.
Plaintiff states that, after she returned to her unit, defendant
Smith indicated that he knew that she was working with investigators.
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶ 9.
He threatened to tell the other women in
the unit that plaintiff was incarcerated because of arson which,
according to defendant Smith, the other prisoners would not like.
Defendant Smith’s threat frightened plaintiff because she understood
it to mean that she would be subject to harassment and physical harm
from other prisoners if defendant Smith revealed that plaintiff was an
Sergeant Brimah is an investigator with the Ohio State Highway Patrol who
administered at least one of plaintiff’s CVSA tests at ORW. Id. at 8-10, 2829, 33-35. Although it is not immediately apparent from the record,
plaintiff represents that this test was taken on March 19, 2009. Opposition,
p. 1 (pagination appearing at bottom of the page).
Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.
Plaintiff asserts that, between
approximately April 15 and April 27, 2009 defendant Smith forced
plaintiff to perform oral sex on him on three occasions.
11, 15, 19; Brimah Deposition, p. 40.
Id. at ¶¶
Plaintiff understood defendant
Smith’s threats to mean that she would be subject to additional sexual
assaults and possible physical harm if she continued to talk to
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶ 20.
On April 30, 2009,10 plaintiff was placed in Arn 4 (segregation)
on disciplinary charges of embezzlement of money, using the telephone
or mail in furtherance of criminal activity, and giving false
information to staff.
April 30, 2009).
Conduct Report, ECF 98-4, PAGEID#:1054 (dated
While she was in segregation, defendant Corrections
Officer Calhoun, a friend of defendant Smith, allegedly threatened
plaintiff “to keep [her] mouth shut about what Smith was doing.”
Plaintiff Declaration, ¶ 30.
Plaintiff alleges that she feared
retaliation by defendants Smith and Calhoun.
Id. at ¶¶ 31-32.
On May 1, 2009, plaintiff reported the sexual assaults to
Sergeant Althouse, who then contacted the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol had not previously
been contacted regarding plaintiff’s allegations about defendant
Trim Deposition, pp. 103-06.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol
assigned Sergeant Brimah to investigate plaintiff’s allegations.
Bartlett Deposition, p. 45; Brimah Deposition, p. 8.
On May 5, 2009,
As will be addressed infra, the parties disagree whether or not ORW
investigators had any additional contact with plaintiff before April 30,
2009. See Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶¶ 12-13, 16-17, 21, 28-29; Motion for
Summary Judgment, p. 7 (citing Bartlett Deposition, pp. 44-45).
plaintiff took a polygraph test regarding her allegations that
defendant Smith forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Affidavit, ¶ 35.
These test results indicated that plaintiff’s
answers were truthful.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol thereupon
transferred plaintiff out of ORW.
Id. at ¶ 36; Bartlett Deposition,
On March 31, 2011, plaintiff filed this action with the
assistance of counsel, naming ten (10) individual defendants.
Complaint, ECF 1.
This Court previously dismissed plaintiff’s state
court claims and her claims against defendants in their official
Order, ECF 34.
Defendants now move for summary judgment
on plaintiff’s remaining claims, contending that those claims were not
timely filed and that defendants are entitled to qualified immunity
because plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.
Plaintiff opposes defendants’ Motion, see Opposition, and
with the filing of defendants’ reply memorandum, see ECF 108
(“Reply”), this matter is now ripe for resolution.
The standard for summary judgment is well established.
standard is found in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
which provides in pertinent part:
The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
In making this determination, the evidence
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).
will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is genuine, “that
is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the non-moving party.”
477 U.S. 242 (1986).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
However, summary judgment is appropriate if the
opposing party 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.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Celotex Corp. v.
The mere existence of a scintilla
of evidence in support of the opposing party’s position will be
insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could
reasonably find for the opposing party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.
The party moving for summary judgment always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its
motion, and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Catrett, 477 U.S. at
Once the moving party has met its initial burden, the burden
then shifts to the nonmoving party who “must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 250 (quoting former Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); Talley v. Bravo Pitino
Restaurant, Ltd., 61 F.3d 1241, 1245 (6th Cir. 1995)(“nonmoving party
must present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact
making it necessary to resolve the difference at trial”).
burden of production has so shifted, the party opposing summary
judgment cannot rest on the pleadings or merely reassert the previous
It is not sufficient to ‘simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.’”
Glover v. Speedway
Super Am. LLC, 284 F. Supp.2d 858, 862 (S.D. Ohio 2003)(citing
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
Instead, the non-moving party must support the assertion
that a fact is genuinely disputed.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment “[a] district court is
not ... obligated to wade through and search the entire record for
some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party’s claim.”
Glover, 284 F. Supp.2d at 862 (citing InteRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller,
889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989)).
Instead, a “court is entitled to
rely, in determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists
on a particular issue, only upon those portions of the verified
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on
file, together with any affidavits submitted, specifically called to
its attention by the parties.”
See also Fed. R. Civ. P.
Statute of Limitations
In moving for summary judgment, defendants first argue that
plaintiff’s remaining claims under § 1983 are time-barred.
10; Reply, pp. 10-11.
Defendants contend that plaintiff’s claims
arose on either February 25, 2009, when plaintiff’s cell was searched
and her letter to defendant Smith was discovered, or on March 2, 2009,
when she was first interviewed by investigators.
Motion, p. 10
(citing Complaint, ¶¶ 22, 25); Reply, pp. 10-11.
Complaint was filed more than two years later, on March 31, 2011,
defendants argue that the action is untimely.
disagrees, contending that her claims, which are claims of failure to
protect, did not accrue until she suffered harm.
(using pagination at bottom of the page).
Opposition, p. 24
argues that she was first harmed on April 15, 2009, when defendants
allegedly failed to protect plaintiff from defendant Smith’s sexual
assaults, and that her § 1983 claims are therefore timely.
Id. at 24-
In reply, the defendants argue that, in light of the fact that
plaintiff placed ORW officials on notice of defendant Smith’s
violation of the Unauthorized Relationships Policy on March 2, 2009,
“[i]t stands to reason that . . . she herself had knowledge of the
same, even prior to February 25, 2009, or when correctional staff
discovered her letter.”
Reply, p. 11.
Claims that arise in Ohio under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must be
initiated within two (2) years of the time the cause of action
See Browning v. Pendleton, 869 F.2d 989, 992 (6th Cir. 1989)
In general, a civil rights claim for relief accrues when
the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the
basis of the action.
Eidson v. Tenn. Dep’t of Children’s Servs., 510
F.3d 631, 635 (6th Cir. 2007); Friedman v. Estate of Presser, 929 F.2d
1151, 1159 (6th Cir. 1991).
“A plaintiff has reason to know of h[er]
injury when [she] should have discovered it through the exercise of
Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 273 (6th Cir.
“In this objective inquiry, courts look ‘to what event should
have alerted the typical lay person to protect his or her rights.’”
Johnson v. Memphis Light Gas & Water Div., 777 F.3d 838, 843 (6th Cir.
2015) (quoting Roberson v. Tennessee, 399 F.3d 792, 794 (6th 2005)).
The Complaint was filed on March 31, 2011; conduct that occurred
before March 31, 2009 would therefore fall outside the statutory
Plaintiff’s claims of failure to protect arise out of
defendant Smith’s alleged sexual assaults beginning on April 15, 2009.
Opposition, p. 24.
Because this action was filed within two years of
that date, plaintiff’s § 1983 claims are timely.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Defendants next argue that plaintiff’s claims cannot proceed
because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before
filing this action.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that a
prisoner filing a claim under federal law relating to prison
conditions must first exhaust available administrative remedies.
Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731
The statute provides, in pertinent part:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under [section 1983 of this title], or any other
Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or
other correctional facility until such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
In order to satisfy this exhaustion requirement, an inmate
Plaintiff does not argue that claims arising prior to March 31, 2009 are
timely. See Opposition, p. 24.
plaintiff must “complete the administrative review process in
accordance with the applicable procedural rules[.]”
548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006).
Woodford v. Ngo,
“Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense
under the PLRA, and  inmates are not required to specifically plead
or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints.”
U.S. 199, 216 (2007).
Jones v. Bock, 549
Exhaustion is not a jurisdictional predicate
but the requirement is nevertheless mandatory, Wyatt v. Leonard, 193
F.3d 876, 879 (6th Cir. 1999), even if proceeding through the
administrative procedure would appear to the inmate to be “futile.”
Hartsfield v. Vidor, 199 F.3d 305, 308-10 (6th Cir. 1999).
Ohio has established a procedure for resolving inmate complaints.
Ohio Admin. Code § 5120-9-31.
The procedure is available to an inmate
“regardless of any disciplinary status, or other administrative or
legislative decision to which the inmate may be subject,” O.A.C. §
5120-9-31(D), and is intended to “address inmate complaints related to
any aspect of institutional life that directly and personally affects
the grievant,” including “complaints regarding policies, procedures,
conditions of confinement, or the actions of institutional staff.”
O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(A).
Certain matters are not grievable, however,
including “complaints unrelated to institutional life, such as
legislative actions, policies and decisions of the adult parole
authority, judicial proceedings and sentencing or complaints whose
subject matter is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the courts or
O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(B).
The grievance procedure established by O.A.C. § 5120-9-31
involves three (3) steps.
First, an inmate must file an informal
complaint within fourteen days of the event giving rise to the
O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(K)(1).
The informal complaint must be
addressed “to the direct supervisor of the staff member, or department
most directly responsible for the particular subject matter of the
If the informal complaint is resolved in a manner
that is unsatisfactory to the inmate, she must file a notification of
grievance with the inspector of institutional services within fourteen
days. O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(K)(2).
If the inmate is dissatisfied with
the disposition of the grievance, she must then appeal to the office
of the chief inspector within fourteen days. O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(K)(3).
“The decision of the chief inspector or designee is final.”
Remedies for valid grievances include “changes to institutional
policies or procedures, the implementation of new policies or
procedures, and/or corrective action specific to the inmate’s
O.A.C. § 5120-9-31(L).
Dismissal without prejudice of a
civil rights complaint is appropriate if a prisoner fails to first
exhaust administrative remedies.
See, e.g., Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420
F.3d 571, 580 (6th Cir. 2005); Crump v. Darling, No. 03-2086, 2005
U.S. App. LEXIS 29546, at *3-4 (6th Cir. July 6, 2005).
However, a prisoner need exhaust only those administrative
remedies that are “available” to her.
See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a); Napier v. Laurel County, 636 F.3d 218, 222-23 (6th Cir.
A facility’s alleged failure to explain the grievance policy
does not excuse an inmate’s failure to exhaust.
See, e.g., Napier,
636 F.3d at 221-22 n.2 (“A plaintiff’s failure to exhaust cannot be
excused by his ignorance of the law or the grievance policy.”).
Whether a process is “available” under the PLRA frequently turns on
whether a grievance procedure was available on its face even if the
prisoner subjectively believes that the procedure would be futile.
Id. at 224.
Courts have found a grievance procedure “unavailable”
when prison officials “have somehow thwarted” an inmate’s attempts at
Brock v. Kenton County, No. 02-5442, 93 Fed. Appx. 793,
at *798 (6th Cir. Mar. 23, 2004).
See also Himmelreich v. Fed. Bureau
of Prisons, 766 F.3d 576, 578 (6th Cir. 2014) (“[W] e have excused a
prisoner’s lack of complete compliance when the improper actions of
prison officials render the administrative remedies functionally
Nevertheless, the prisoner must still “make some
affirmative efforts to comply with the administrative procedure”
before a court will consider whether the procedure was unavailable.
Brock, 93 Fed. Appx. 793, at *798.
See also Napier, 636 F.3d at 223
(“The Sixth Circuit requires some affirmative efforts to comply with
the administrative procedures before analyzing whether the facility
rendered these remedies unavailable.”) (internal quotation marks and
Courts analyze “whether an inmate’s efforts to
exhaust were sufficient under the circumstances[.]”
Id. at 224.
making this determination, courts consider whether a reasonable jury
could conclude that defendants’ actions and/or statements “would deter
a person of ordinary firmness from continuing with the grievance
Himmelreich, 766 F.3d at 578.
In the case presently before the Court, plaintiff argues that the
inmate grievance procedure was not “available” to her for three
First, she contends that sexual assaults were not subject to
the inmate grievance procedure.
Opposition, pp. 9-12.
Even if such
assaults were subject to that procedure, plaintiff next argues that
her alleged failure to exhaust was excused because defendants thwarted
her attempts to comply.
Id. at 12-21.
Finally, plaintiff contends
that she was afraid to file a written grievance because defendants
Smith and Calhoun threatened her.
Id. at 21-23.
Defendants take the
position that plaintiff’s claims were subject to the grievance
procedure and that plaintiff, who was counseled on how to use that
procedure, should not be excused for failing to exhaust her
Motion, pp. 8-10; Reply, pp. 2-10.
This Court declines, under the particular facts of this case,
to determine whether plaintiff’s claims are subject to the usual
inmate grievance procedure established by O.A.C. § 5120-9-31. The
information provided to plaintiff upon her admission to ORW created,
at the very least, ambiguity as to the proper method of reporting
complaints of sexual misconduct or assault.
See, e.g., Raneri
Deposition, pp. 39-41.
Even assuming that sexual assaults fall within the scope of the
grievance procedure established by O.A.C. § 5120-9-31, the Court
concludes that the record reflects a genuine issue of material fact
regarding plaintiff’s compliance with those procedures or defendants’
waiver of her obligation to pursue those procedures.
As noted supra,
plaintiff was advised that she could report a sexual assault by, inter
alia, calling a hotline or telling a staff member.
that she met with investigators after the first alleged assault and
that she was told to report assaults by telephone.
Affidavit, ¶¶ 12-13.
The investigators allegedly assured plaintiff
that “the sexual assault reporting phone number would go directly to
them [,] that it was the right procedure to follow to report sexual
assaults” and that “it was the safest procedure to follow.”
Id. at ¶
Plaintiff alleges that she in fact utilized that procedure
following the alleged second assault.
Id. at ¶ 16.
When she met with
investigators, they advised her to call the number they gave her if he
assaulted her again and that she should obtain evidence of any future
Investigators came and met with me again to discuss Smith.
The investigators told me again that the way to report
sexual assaults was to call the number they gave me.
However, this time, investigators also told me to try to
get evidence of the sexual assaults. They suggested that
after he forces me to perform oral sex and ejaculates, that
I should spit his semen into a towel and keep it to give to
Id. at ¶ 17.
After defendant Smith allegedly assaulted plaintiff a
third time, plaintiff alleges that she called the number given to her
to report the alleged assault.
Id. at ¶¶ 19, 21.
Defendants point to evidence that plaintiff did not approach
corrections staff about any alleged sexual assaults until April 30,
2009, when she was placed in segregation for unrelated misconduct.
Motion, p. 7; Reply, pp. 3, 5-6 (citing “Ohio State Highway Patrol
Report of Investigation Investigative Notes,” ECF 108-1).
Bartlett Deposition, pp. 42, 44-45. This evidence establishes only
that, at this stage of the proceedings, there exists a genuine issue
of material fact and that summary judgment on this issue is
Plaintiff also contends that she was afraid to put information
about defendant Smith’s sexual assaults in writing because he had
threatened her on multiple occasions and she feared that he would
retaliate against her.
Plaintiff Affidavit, ¶¶ 9-10, 19-20, 26-27,
She also feared retaliation from defendant Calhoun, defendant
Smith’s friend who also allegedly threatened her.
Id. at ¶¶ 30-32.
Although defendants dispute the credibility of plaintiff’s claimed
fear of retaliation, Reply, pp. 8-9, defendant Smith’s “retaliation
and intimidation — if proven true — would render the grievance process
functionally unavailable for a person of ordinary firmness.”
Himmelreich, 766 F.3d at 578.
In short, and construing this evidence in a light most favorable
to plaintiff, the Court concludes that there remains a genuine issue
of material fact as to whether the grievance process was, under the
circumstances alleged by plaintiff, available to her.12
WHEREUPON, it is RECOMMENDED that Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment As It Pertains to the Mandatory Precondition of Exhaustion of
Administrative Remedies Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act
To the extent that defendants argue that, because “Plaintiff has failed to
satisfy statutory mandates, she has not, nor can she, defeat Defendants’
entitlement to qualified immunity[,]” Motion, p. 10, that argument is not
well-taken for the reasons discussed supra.
(“PLRA”) of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, ECF 98, be DENIED.
If any party seeks review by the District Judge of this Report
and Recommendation, that party may, within fourteen (14) days, file
and serve on all parties objections to the Report and Recommendation,
specifically designating this Report and Recommendation, and the part
thereof in question, as well as the basis for objection thereto.
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
Response to objections
must be filed within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
The parties are specifically advised that failure to object to
the Report and Recommendation will result in a waiver of the right to
de novo review by the District Judge and of the right to appeal the
decision of the District Court adopting the Report and Recommendation.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Smith v. Detroit Fed’n of
Teachers, Local 231 etc., 829 F.2d 1370 (6th Cir. 1987); United States
v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981).
May 1, 2015
s/Norah McCann King
Norah McCann King
United States Magistrate Judge
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