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Moore v. Younce

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

November 30, 2017

M. YOUNCE, et al., Defendants.



         Antonio Lee Moore, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff names numerous staff of the Red Onion State Prison ("ROSP") as defendants. Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by not giving him a mattress for two nights. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment, and Plaintiff responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, the court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies and fails to establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment.


         Plaintiff filed two informal complaints in early November 2016. On November 3, Plaintiff submitted the first informal complaint, #ROSP-16-INF-02243. Plaintiff explained that he was placed into a segregation cell without a mattress on October 26, asked several staff for a mattress, and did not receive a mattress until forty-eight hours later on October 28. On November 7, Plaintiff submitted a second informal complaint, #ROSP-16-INF-02138, repeating the allegations from the first. Plaintiff also noted in the second informal complaint that he had been able to sleep on a "cold metal-concrete slab." The informal complaint form told Plaintiff timelines for a response. "If no response is received within [fifteen] calendar days, you may proceed in filing a regular grievance. You may utilize your receipt as evidence of your attempt to resolve your complaint." Grievance Department staff should issue the receipt within two working days of receiving the informal complaint.

         Instead of waiting for a response to the informal complaints, Plaintiff filed his first regular grievance on November 10. Plaintiff did not attach an informal complaint response or receipt because he filed the regular grievance too soon after filing the informal complaints.

         On November 15, defendant Lt. Sykes responded to informal complaint #ROSP-16-INF-02138. Lt. Sykes noted that he had spoken to the staff named in the informal complaint and determined that Plaintiff already had received a mattress. This response would be routed from Lt. Sykes to Plaintiff via the Grievance Department and institutional mail service.

         On November 16, 2016, Plaintiff received a receipt for and the answer to the first informal complaint, #ROSP-16-INF-02243. Grievance staff replied, "This is a repeat complaint. Please be patient and wait for a reply to ROSP-16-INF-02138 due back 11/22/2016 concerning this issue."

         Also on November 16, the Grievance Coordinator rejected the first regular grievance at intake because no answered informal complaint had been attached. Plaintiff chose to appeal the decision instead of waiting until November 22 for either the arrival of staff s response to the informal complaint or for staffs response time to expire. A regional ombudsman upheld the intake decision on November 28, noting that Plaintiff had "filed [the] grievance BEFORE informal [complaint] was answered."

         Plaintiff waited until December 7 to file a second regular grievance. Because more than thirty days had passed since the incident occurred, the Grievance Coordinator rejected it at intake as untimely. A regional ombudsman upheld the intake decision on December 15.



         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists if, in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of showing - "that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett 477 US. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of fact for trial. Id. at 322-24. A party is entitled to summary judgment if the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991). "Mere unsupported speculation... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995). A plaintiff cannot use a response to a motion for summary judgment to amend or correct a complaint challenged by the motion for summary judgment. Cloaninger v. McDevitt, 555 F.3d 324, 336 (4th Cir. 2009).


         Defendants argue, inter alia, that Plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).[1] The exhaustion requirement is mandatory and "applies to all inmate suits about prison life[.]" Porter v. Nussle,534 U.S. 516, 524, 532 (2002). "Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). When a prison provides an administrative grievance procedure, the inmate must file a grievance raising a particular claim and pursue it through all available levels of appeal to "properly exhaust." Id; Dixon v. Page. 291 F.3d 485, 490-91 (7th Cir. 2002). "[A]n administrative remedy is not considered to have been available if a prisoner, through no fault of his own, was prevented from availing himself of it." Moore v. Bennette,517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008). "[W]hen prison officials prevent inmates from using the administrative process ..., the process that exists on paper becomes unavailable in reality." Kaba v. Stepp. 458 F.3d 678, 684 (7th Cir. 2006). A defendant has the burden to prove an inmate's failure to exhaust available administrative remedies. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Once a defendant presents evidence ...

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