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Montgomery v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 12, 2018



         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the U.S. District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have 14 days after being served with the attached report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations set forth therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions accepted by the District Court.




         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Docs. 9 and 12) and the Plaintiff's Motion Requesting a Ruling on Exhaustion of Administrative Remedy Proceedings (R. Doc. 14).

         Pro se Plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (“EHCC”), St. Gabriel, Louisiana, filed this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Social Worker Kristen Thomas, Social Worker James Dulaney, Major Brown, Program Manager Clara Hodas, Capt. Donald Johnson, Ass't Warden Boies and Lt. Jackson, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights on January 21, 2015 by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his health and safety, specifically by placing him in a suicide cell with a top bunk notwithstanding his explicit threat that he would harm himself by jumping therefrom, which he thereafter did.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on the evening of January 21, 2015, he was escorted to a suicide cell in response to his assertion that he was feeling suicidal. However, upon placement in the assigned cell, Plaintiff complained that he should not be placed therein because it had an upper bunk, because he feared that he would harm himself by jumping from the bunk, and because he had a history of jumping from the upper bunk in double-bunked cells. In response to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendants Jackson, Johnson and Brown were summoned to the tier, whereupon Plaintiff explained his concerns regarding the cell. Defendant Johnson then instructed Defendant Jackson to contact a mental health worker, whereupon Defendant Kristen Thomas arrived at the tier. After Plaintiff again explained his concerns, Defendant Thomas advised Plaintiff that he would have to remain in the cell and that, if he hurt himself by jumping off of the bed, he would then be placed in 4-point restraints on “extreme” suicide watch. According to Plaintiff, he thereafter tried to sleep, but his “thoughts kept racing, telling [him] to hurt [him]self, ” and he began to hyperventilate. Finally, at around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. the next morning, he jumped from the top bunk, landing on his knees and sustaining injury.

         Addressing first Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants contend, relying upon the pleadings, a Statement of Uncontested Material Facts, certified copies of Plaintiff's pertinent administrative remedy proceedings, and the affidavits of Rhonda Z. Weldon and Linda S. Krol, that dismissal is appropriate in the first instance based upon the procedural argument that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies as mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

         Pursuant to well-established legal principles, summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine disputed issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment must inform the Court of the basis for the motion and identify those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, that show that there is no such genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party carries its burden of proof under Rule 56, the opposing party must direct the Court's attention to specific evidence in the record which demonstrates that the non-moving party can satisfy a reasonable jury that it is entitled to a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., supra, 477 U.S. at 248. This burden is not satisfied by some metaphysical doubt as to alleged material facts, by unsworn and unsubstantiated assertions, by conclusory allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Rather, Rule 56 mandates that summary judgment be entered 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 Corp. v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. Summary judgment is appropriate in any case where the evidence is so weak or tenuous on essential facts that the evidence could not support a judgment in favor of the non-moving party. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., supra, 37 F.3d at 1075. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court may not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991).

         Upon a review of Plaintiff's pertinent administrative remedy proceedings, the Court finds that Defendants' motion should be denied.[1] In this regard, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, Plaintiff was required to exhaust administrative remedies available at the prison prior to commencing a civil action in this Court with respect to prison conditions.[2] This provision is mandatory and applies broadly to “all inmate suits about prison life.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Further, a prisoner must exhaust administrative remedies by complying with applicable prison grievance procedures. Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 517 (5th Cir. 2004).

         Specifically, not only must the prisoner exhaust all available remedies, but such exhaustion must be proper, including compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). One of the principal purposes of the administrative exhaustion requirement is to provide fair notice to prison officials of an inmate's specific complaints so as to provide “'time and opportunity to address complaints internally.'” Johnson v. Johnson, supra, 385 F.3d at 516, quoting Porter v. Nussle, supra, 534 U.S. at 525. Thus, the degree of specificity necessary in a prisoner's grievance should be evaluated in light of this intended purpose. Id.

         Applying the foregoing standard, it appears that on January 7, 2015, approximately two weeks prior to the incident complained of, Plaintiff submitted an administrative grievance to prison officials wherein he complained of the specific risk referenced herein, i.e., the risk associated with his being placed in a double-bunked suicide cell. Specifically, Plaintiff asserted in the referenced grievance:

When I'm placed in CBB-tier …, which is the suicide tier, my thoughts stay racing with thoughts of jumping off of the top bunks in these suicide cells. I warn security. I warn mental health workers, because to be placed in a suicide cell with a top bunk is a great risk to my health and safety. I have already in the past jumped off of one of these top bunks in these suicide ...

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