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Lafleur v. Leglue

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement (Doc. 102), The Court previously issued an Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion, and scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether Plaintiff had exhausted her administrative remedies prior to filing the instant lawsuit. (Doc. 152). Further oral argument is not required. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiffs claims are



         On January 25, 2016, Londi Lafleur ("Plaintiff) was booked into the Livingston Parish Detention Center ("LPDC"). (Doc. 1). A verbal altercation between Plaintiff and LPDC officers ensued, which ultimately led to Defendant Karleen Leglue handcuffing Plaintiff and bringing her to the disciplinary lockdown section of the jail. (Doc. 116-5 atp. 1). While Plaintiff was handcuffed, Leglue violently slammed Plaintiffs head into a concrete wall. (Doc. 116-4 at p. 9). The Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office ("LSPO") investigated the incident and terminated Leglue immediately. (Doc. 101-2 at p. 2). Leglue was subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to simple battery, for which she received a six-month suspended sentence and two years' probation. (Doc. 102-3 at p. 2).

         On February 22, 2016, all charges against Plaintiff were dismissed and she was released from custody. (Doc. 1). While Plaintiff was incarcerated, she filed two inmate request forms, one requesting that she be moved to "population"[1] (Doc. 121-5) and the other inquiring into the amount owed for her medical care necessitated by Leglue's attack. (Doc. 166 at p. 7). In neither of the inmate request forms did Plaintiff request a grievance form. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against the LSPO, Sheriff Jason Ard, Leglue, Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company ("Atlantic"), and Warden Perry Rushing. (Doc. 47). Atlantic filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 112) and Sheriff Ard and Warden Rushing filed an additional Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 116). The Court issued a Ruling and Order Granting Atlantic's Motion for Partial Summary Judgement and Granting in part and Denying in part the Motion for Summary Judgement filed by Sheriff Ard and Warden Rushing.

         Sheriff Ard argued that Plaintiff never initiated the grievance procedure to recover damages arising from the incident. He also claims that although an officer told Plaintiff she could not press charges while incarcerated, this statement did not mislead her into thinking that she could not file a civil lawsuit while incarcerated. argues that no exhaustion of administrative remedies was necessary because a remedy was unavailable, yet she was stonewalled at every attempt to begin internal complaint procedures, and was told that she could not "press charges," which she took to mean that she could not pursue any civil, criminal, or administrative remedy while in custody.

         When a prisoner challenges the lack of access to an administrative remedy, the burden to show that the remedy was available shifts to the defendants. Cheron v. LCS Corr. Servs., Lie, . 2002-1049 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/23/04) 872 So.2d 1094, 1103, aff d 2004-0703 (La. 1/19/05), 891 So.2d 1250. The Court previously determined that Sheriff Ard had not met the burden set forth in Cheron to be entitled to summary judgment. The Court further found that the difference between "pressing charges" and "filing a complaint" is not immediately apparent to those untrained in the law. Therefore, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the discrete issues of whether Plaintiff was required to exhaust all administrative remedies, whether it was possible for Plaintiff to do so, whether employees of the LPDC misled Plaintiff into believing that she could not file any civil actions against Officer Leglue while incarcerated, and whether such alleged misleading statements created an exception to the requirement to first exhaust all administrative remedies.

         A. The Evidentiary Hearing

         Sergeant Thomas W. Martin's testified that a grievance only begins when an inmate requests a grievance form, which is subsequently submitted to the warden for review. (Doc. 162 at p. 21). He further testified that, in his opinion, there is a difference between a prisoner complaint and an official grievance form. Sgt. Martin also admitted that there is nothing in the inmate handbook or policy and procedure guide that instructs officers or inmates on the difference between a complaint and a grievance, (Id.). When asked if there were any "magic words" to obtain a grievance form, Sgt. Martin replied that the words "I want a grievance" must be uttered. (Id. at p. 47).

         Officer Velma Wheat testified that while making her rounds on the day of the assault, Plaintiff approached her with a swollen face, and reported that her face had been smashed the previous night, and was hurting badly. (Id. at p. 60). Officer Wheat testified that Plaintiff did not say anything to her about wanting to begin the grievance process. (Id. at p. 62). On cross examination, Officer Wheat stated that to receive a grievance form, an inmate must first ask for an inmate request form. (Id. at p. 68) Upon requesting a grievance form via the inmate request form, the inmate will be given the grievance form. (Id.).

         Dpy. Johnathan Crozier testified that he interpreted Plaintiffs statement that she wanted to "press charges" as an indication that she wanted criminal charges to be filed against Leglue. (Doc 163. at p. 10). Dpy. Crozier testified it was his understanding that there are differences between pressing charges and initiating a grievance process. (Id.). He testified that Plaintiff did not say anything to him about wanting to start the grievance process. (Id. at pp. 10-11).

         Dpy. Corzier also testified that prior to receiving a grievance form, an inmate must request the grievance form by using an inmate request form. (Id. at p. 24). However Dpy. Corzier admitted that this procedure is not specifically set forth in the inmate handbook. (Id. at p. 26).

         Warden Rushing, former warden of the Livingston Parish Prison testified that an inmate must fill out an "ARP"[2] or a grievance form to initiate the grievance procedures. (Id. at p. 43). He testified that Plaintiff refused to take the inmate handbook when it was offered to her, and that it was his understanding that "pressing charges" is different that requesting a grievance. (Id. at pp. 47, 49). Warden Rushing also testified that a supervisor could simply choose to give the grievance form to the prisoner directly, and that the decision to do so is strictly at the supervisor's discretion. (Id. at p. 60). Warden Rushing also stated that there is no specific training that ...

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