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Cardona v. Slone

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

September 1, 2017

JOSE CRISTOBAL CARDONA, Plaintiff,
v.
S. SLONE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jose Cristobal Cardona is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) at the United States Penitentiary-Big Sandy (“USP-Big Sandy”) located in Inez, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Cardona filed an Amended Complaint [R. 11] against Defendant Sherry Slone, USP-Big Sandy's Health Service Administrator (“HSA”), in which he asserts constitutional claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, pursuant to the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Cardona has previously been granted in forma pauperis status in this proceeding. [R. 13].

         Defendant Slone has now filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. [R. 23]. Cardona has filed a Response [R. 25] and Slone has filed a Reply [R. 26]. Thus, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for review.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In his Amended Complaint, Cardona alleges that, since he arrived at USP-Big Sandy, Slone has refused to provide him medical treatment for his Hepatitis C, which has caused him pain on his stomach and side. [R. 11, Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 11, 12]. Cardona further alleges that Slone's failure to provide him medical treatment is a violation of the Eight Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. [Id. at ¶ 14]. Based on these allegations, Cardona seeks an injunction requiring Slone to arrange for Cardona to be provided with his medication, as well as an award of compensatory and punitive damages. [Id. at p. 3]. Although Cardona originally brought a variety of claims against multiple other parties [R. 1, 11], these claims have previously been dismissed or severed from this case. [R. 7, 17]. Thus, Cardona's Eighth Amendment Bivens claim against Slone is the only claim remaining in this case. [R. 17].

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. Gardner v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 567 F. App'x 362, 364 (6th Cir. 2014). When addressing a motion to dismiss, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts as true all ‘well-pleaded facts' in the complaint. D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014). Because the plaintiff here is proceeding without the benefit of an attorney, the Court reads his complaint to include all fairly and reasonably inferred claims. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Here, however, Slone moved both to dismiss and for summary judgment, attaching and relying upon declarations extrinsic to the pleadings in support of her motion. [R. 23]. Thus, the Court will treat Slone's motion to dismiss the complaint as a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Wysocki v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp., 607 F.3d 1102, 1104 (6th Cir. 2010). See also Ball v. Union Carbide Corp., 385 F.3d 713, 719 (6th Cir. 2004) (where defendant moves both to dismiss and for summary judgment, plaintiff is on notice that summary judgment is being requested, and the court's consideration as such is appropriate where the nonmovant submits documents and affidavits in opposition to summary judgment).

         A motion under Rule 56 challenges the viability of another party's claim by asserting that at least one essential element of that claim is not supported by legally-sufficient evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324-25 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment must establish that, even viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Loyd v. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588 (6th Cir. 2014).

         The Court reviews all of the evidence presented by the parties in a light most favorable to the responding party, with the benefit of any reasonable factual inferences which can be drawn in his favor. Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2005). If the responding party's allegations are so clearly contradicted by the record that no reasonable jury could adopt them, the court need not accept them when determining whether summary judgment is warranted. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The Court must grant summary judgment if the evidence would not support a jury verdict for the responding party with respect to at least one essential element of his claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). If the applicable substantive law requires the responding party to meet a higher burden of proof, his evidence must be sufficient to sustain a jury's verdict in his favor in light of that heightened burden of proof at trial. Harvey v. Hollenback, 113 F.3d 639, 642 (6th Cir. 1997); Moore, Owen, Thomas & Co. v. Coffey, 992 F.2d 1439, 1444 (6th Cir. 1993).

         III. Analysis

         A. Cardona's Failure to Exhaust His Administrative Remedies

         As a preliminary matter, the Motion and supporting materials submitted by Slone [R. 23] establish that Cardona did not properly and timely exhaust his administrative remedies as required by federal law. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), a prisoner wishing to challenge the manner in which his criminal sentence is being carried out under federal law must first exhaust all available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (“There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.”). Requiring exhaustion of remedies available within the agency whose actions are being challenged preserves the agency's administrative authority by providing the agency with “an opportunity to correct its own mistakes with respect to the programs it administers before it is haled into federal court.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 89 (2006). A prospective litigant must present their claim for relief in such a manner to “give the agency a fair and full opportunity to adjudicate their claims...” Id. at 90.

         The BOP's Inmate Grievance System requires a federal prisoner to first seek informal resolution of any issue with staff, and then to institute a formal grievance with the warden within twenty days. 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.13, 542.14(a). If the prisoner is not satisfied with the warden's response, he or she must appeal to the appropriate regional office within twenty days, and if unsatisfied with that response, to the General Counsel within thirty days thereafter. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15(a). See BOP Program Statement 1300.16. Because “[p]roper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's ...


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