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Chambers v. Hardy

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

February 20, 2019

ROSCOE CHAMBERS, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. HARDY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Roscoe Chambers is an inmate confined at the United States Penitentiary (“USP”)- Lewisburg in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Proceeding without an attorney, Chambers has filed a civil rights action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). After Chambers' complaint was screened by the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 1915A, the sole remaining claim pending in this case is a claim that Defendant Dr. William Hardy acted with deliberate indifference to Chambers' medical needs in violation of his constitutional rights while Chambers was confined at United States Penitentiary-McCreary (“USP-McCreary”) in Pine Knot, Kentucky. [R. 1, 14]

         Dr. Hardy, through counsel, has filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, [R. 22] to which Chambers has filed a response. [R. 28] Dr. Hardy has not filed a reply and the time for doing so has expired. Thus, this matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         I.

         While the factual details provided in Chambers' complaint are sparse, he alleges that, while he was incarcerated at USP-McCreary, Dr. Hardy, identified as USP-McCreary's physician, operated on Chambers' foot without his permission and neglected to send Chambers for knee replacement. [R. 1 at p. 3]. Based on these allegations, Chambers asserts a claim that Dr. Hardy acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

         In his motion, Dr. Hardy argues that Chambers' complaint should be dismissed because: (1) Chambers has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) his complaint is untimely; (3) Chambers' complaint fails to allege a claim of constitutional dimension; and (4) Dr. Hardy is shielded from liability by qualified immunity. [R. 22-1]

         II.

         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 Fed.Appx. 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 Chambers 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, Dr. Hardy moves both to dismiss and for summary judgment, attaching and relying upon declarations extrinsic to the pleadings in support of his motion. [R. 22] Thus, the Court will treat Dr. Hardy's motion to dismiss the complaint as a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “come forward with some probative evidence to support its claim.” Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir.1994). However, 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. Ford v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986).

         A.

         Chambers' complaint alleges that Dr. Hardy was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in two respects: (1) he operated on Chambers' foot without his permission; and (2) he neglected to send Chambers for knee replacement. [R. 1 at p. 3]. However, with respect to his claim regarding the allegedly improper operation on his foot, Chambers 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 circumstances or conditions of his confinement 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.”); Fazzini v. Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, 473 F.3d 229, 231 (6th Cir. 2006); Campbell v. Barron, 87 Fed.Appx. 577, 577 (6th Cir. 2004). Administrative remedies must be exhausted prior to filing suit and in full conformity with the agency's claims processing rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 92-94 (2006).

         The federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) employs a multi-tiered administrative grievance process. The BOP's Inmate Grievance System requires a federal prisoner to first seek informal resolution of any issue with staff. 28 C.F.R. § 542.13. If a matter cannot be resolved informally, the prisoner must file an Administrative Remedy Request Form (BP-9 Form) with the Warden, who has 20 days to respond. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.14(a) and 542.18. If the prisoner is not satisfied with the Warden's response, he may use a BP-10 Form to appeal to the applicable Regional Director, who has 30 days to respond. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.15 and 542.18. If the prisoner is not satisfied with the Regional Director's response, he may use a BP-11 Form to appeal to the General Counsel, who has 40 days to respond. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.15 and 542.18. See also BOP Program Statement 1300.16. Because “[p]roper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules..., ” Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90, the prisoner must file the initial grievance and any appeals within these time frames.

         Here, even according to Chambers, the only administrative remedy requests relevant to this lawsuit that he completely exhausted are Administrative Remedy Nos. 849291 and 854754. [R. 28, Resp. at p. 3; R. 22-2, Exh. 1: Decl. of Carlos Martinez, Attachments D and E, at p. 84-97]. However, both of these administrative remedy requests relate to the allegedly inadequate medical treatment provided for ...


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