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Griffin v. Southern Health Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, at Bowling Green Division.

November 14, 2014



JOSEPH H. McKINLLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants Jamie Pruitt and Barbara Brown's motion for summary judgment (DN 89). Plaintiff has filed a response (DN 113) to which Defendants have replied (DN 114). This matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the deliberate indifference claim regarding Plaintiff's alleged lack of medical treatment will be denied. Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted as to the retaliation, conditions of confinement, and due process claims.


After performing initial review of this case, the Court allowed the following four claims involving Plaintiff's incarceration in a medical detox cell from September 10-12, 2012, to proceed against Defendants Pruitt and Brown in their individual capacities: 1) retaliation; 2) conditions of confinement; 3) due process; and 4) denial of medical treatment for Plaintiff's back pain and hip spasms allegedly resulting from Plaintiff's incarceration in the medical detox cell.

Plaintiff states that he submitted two sick-call slips in September 2012, because he had blood in his stool and sputum. Thereafter, on September 10, 2012, Plaintiff states he was moved from his cell to a detox cell. According to Plaintiff, he was placed in the detox cell by Defendant Brown who had to obtain permission from Defendant Pruitt to do so. He contends that Defendants Brown and Pruitt placed him in the detox cell in retaliation for submitting his sick-call slips and did so without providing him due process.

During the time he was in the detox cell, for approximately 55 hours from September 10-12, 2012, Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he was subjected to conditions of confinement that were constitutionally impermissible. According to Plaintiff, there were bugs in the detox cell. He states that the cell smelled bad and had vomit in the drain in the floor. Additionally, Plaintiff states that feces and blood smeared on the floor and walls. Plaintiff states that he was only given a thin mat to lie on the concrete floor. During much of the time he was in the cell, according to Plaintiff's complaint, the water was turned off, and he was not given any toilet paper to clean himself.

Plaintiff states that being forced to sleep on the concrete floor with only a thin mat while in the detox cell caused him to suffer back pain and hip spasms. He alleges that Defendants failed to provide him with adequate medical care for these problems.


Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to all of the claims against them; thus summary judgment should be entered in their favor. Further, Defendants argue that if the Court were to address the substance of the claims against them, the claims should be dismissed. As to the retaliation claim, Defendants argue that Plaintiff was placed in the detox cell for medical observation as a result of symptoms about which he complained, not in retaliation for submitting sick-call slips. Concerning the conditions-of-confinement claim, Defendants argue that the conditions about which Plaintiff complains do not amount to a constitutional violation. Defendants argue that the substantive due process claim fails because there is an alternative explicit constitutional provision under which Plaintiff's complaints should be addressed. As to the procedural due process claim, Defendants argue that being placed in segregation for the minimal amount of time about which Plaintiff complains is an ordinary incident of prison life which does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Finally, as to the medical treatment about which Plaintiff complains, Defendants argue that Plaintiff received constitutionally adequate treatment.

In his response, Plaintiff primarily addresses the exhaustion argument. Plaintiff contends that the grievance policy at WCRJ was revised in July 2010. He argues that he completed all of the steps required for exhaustion under the revised policy. Further, Plaintiff reiterates that he "was retaliated against for submitting a sick-call request by being put into unsanitary confinement, being denied his due process, and was a victim of medical negligence by being denied proper care." However, Plaintiff fails to include anything but this statement in addressing the merits of his claims.


Summary judgment is proper "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). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact which requires the denial of a summary judgment motion." Street v. J. C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). "The pivotal question is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element of its case." Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996).

Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmoving party must do more than raise some doubt as to the existence of a fact; the nonmoving party must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission of the issue to the jury. Id. The moving party, therefore, is "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).


A. Exhaustion

Prisoner civil-rights cases are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) mandate that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under § 1983... 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). To exhaust a claim, a prisoner must proceed through all of the steps of a prison's or jail's grievance process, because an inmate "cannot abandon the process before completion and claim that he has exhausted his remedies." Hartsfield v. Vidor, 199 F.3d 305, 309 (6th Cir. 1999). The Supreme Court held in Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006), that failure to "properly" exhaust bars suit in federal court. "Proper exhaustion" means that the plaintiff complied with the ...

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