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Williams v. Granholm

March 12, 2010

IRMON C. WILLIAMS #317017, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable R. Allan Edgar

OPINION

I. Facts

This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Irmon C. Williams #317017, an inmate at the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Governor Jennifer Granholm, MDOC Director Patricia Caruso, Warden Gregory McQuiggin, Deputy Warden Linda Tribley, Assistant Deputy Warden William Leutzow, Gloria Hill R.N., Dr. Richard Miller, Kathleen Hornton R.N., .Resident Unit Manager Kathy Meni, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Tammy Gajewski, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Brandon Sweeney, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Gina Healey, Assistant Deputy Warden Dan Lesatz, Resident Unit Manager William Jondreau, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Darren Gerard, and Resident Unit Officer Robert Majourn. On January 9, 2009, the court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Granholm and Caruso for lack of merit, and ordered service of the complaint with regard to the remaining Defendants. As of this date, service remains unexecuted as to Defendants Hornton, Miller, Majourn, Meni, and Leutzow.

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he has suffered from severe asthma for most of his life which causes him to suffer serious, and at times near fatal, asthma attacks. Plaintiff has been incarcerated within the MDOC since July 2, 2002, where he has been treated for his asthma by MDOC medical personnel and emergency room personnel. On June 13, 2005, Plaintiff was assessed by Michael R. Engelsgierd, M.D., who gave Plaintiff a special accommodation notice requiring that he (1) be housed in a tobacco free housing unit (2) in a ground floor room, and that he be (3) assigned to a bottom bunk for the duration of his incarceration. Plaintiff claims that he was transferred to AMF on May 9, 2006, and that Defendants have since violated his special accommodation notice, which has caused him to suffer numerous severe asthma attacks. Plaintiff seeks both damages and equitable relief.

II. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Gajewski, Gerard, Healey, Hill, Jondreau, Lesatz, McQuiggin, Sweeney, and Tribley, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiff has filed a response and the matter is ready for decision. Because both sides have asked that the Court consider evidentiary materials beyond the pleadings, the standards applicable to summary judgment apply. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). If the movant carries the burden of showing there is an absence of evidence to support a claim or defense, then the party opposing the motion must demonstrate by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Id. at 324-25. The nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings but must present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Thus, any direct evidence offered by the plaintiff in response to a summary judgment motion must be accepted as true. Muhammad v. Close, 379 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 382 (6th Cir. 1994)). However, a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position will be insufficient. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. Ultimately, the court must determine whether there is sufficient "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Id. at 252. See also Leahy v. Trans Jones, Inc., 996 F.2d 136, 139 (6th Cir. 1993) (single affidavit, in presence of other evidence to the contrary, failed to present genuine issue of fact); cf. Moore, Owen, Thomas & Co. v. Coffey, 992 F.2d 1439, 1448 (6th Cir. 1993) (single affidavit concerning state of mind created factual issue).

B. Exhaustion of administrative remedies

A prisoner's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, which Defendants have the burden to plead and prove. Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910, 919-21 (2007). A moving party without the burden of proof need show only that the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial. See Morris v. Oldham County Fiscal Court, 201 F.3d 784, 787 (6th Cir. 2000); see also Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398 F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). A moving party with the burden of proof faces a "substantially higher hurdle." Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2002); Cockrel v. Shelby County Sch. Dist., 270 F.3d 1036, 1056 (6th Cir. 2001). "Where the moving party has the burden -- the plaintiff on a claim for relief or the defendant on an affirmative defense -- his showing must be sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting W. SCHWARZER, Summary Judgment Under the Federal Rules: Defining Genuine Issues of Material Fact, 99 F.R.D. 465, 487-88 (1984)). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit repeatedly has emphasized that the party with the burden of proof "must show the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it." Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561 (quoting 11 JAMES WILLIAM MOORE, ET AL., MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE § 56.13[1], at 56-138 (3d ed. 2000); Cockrel, 270 F.2d at 1056 (same). Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of the party with the burden of persuasion "is inappropriate when the evidence is susceptible of different interpretations or inferences by the trier of fact." Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999).

Defendants claim that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Pursuant to the applicable portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PRLA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), a prisoner bringing an action with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must exhaust his available administrative remedies. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 733 (2001). A prisoner must first exhaust available administrative remedies, even if the prisoner may not be able to obtain the specific type of relief he seeks in the state administrative process. See Porter, 534 U.S. at 520; Booth, 532 U.S. at 741; Knuckles El v. Toombs, 215 F.3d 640, 642 (6th Cir. 2000); Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 643 (6th Cir. 1999). In order to properly exhaust administrative remedies, prisoners must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the deadlines and other applicable procedural rules. Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910, 922-23 (2007); Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 2386 (2006). "Compliance with prison grievance procedures, therefore, is all that is required by the PLRA to 'properly exhaust.'" Jones, 127 S.Ct. at 922-23.

MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130 (effective July 9, 2007), sets forth the applicable grievance procedures for prisoners in MDOC custody at the time relevant to this complaint. Inmates must first attempt to resolve a problem orally within two business days of becoming aware of the grievable issue, unless prevented by circumstances beyond his or her control Id. at ¶ P. If oral resolution is unsuccessful, the inmate may proceed to Step I of the grievance process and submit a completed grievance form within five business days of the attempted oral resolution. Id. at ¶ P. The Policy Directive also provides the following directions for completing grievance forms: "The issues shall be stated briefly. Information provided shall be limited to the facts involving the issue being grieved (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how). Dates, times, places and names of all those involved in the issue being grieved are to be included." Id. at ¶ R (emphasis in original). The inmate submits the grievance to a designated grievance coordinator, who assigns it to a respondent. Id. at ¶ X.

If the inmate is dissatisfied with the Step I response, or does not receive a timely response, he may appeal to Step II by obtaining an appeal form within ten business days of the response, or if no response was received, within ten days after the response was due. Id. at ¶¶ T, DD. The respondent at Step II is designated by the policy, e.g., the regional health administrator for a medical care grievances. Id. at ¶ GG. If the inmate is still dissatisfied with the Step II response, or does not receive a timely Step II response, he may appeal to Step III. Id. at ¶ FF. The Step III form shall be sent within ten business days after receiving the Step II response, or if no Step II response was received, within ten business days after the date the Step II response was due. Id. at ¶ FF. The Grievance and Appeals Section is the respondent for Step III grievances on behalf of the MDOC director. Id. at ¶ GG. Time limitations shall be adhered to by the inmate and staff at all steps of the grievance process. Id. at ¶ X. "The total grievance process from the point of filing a Step I grievance to providing a Step III response shall be completed within 90 calendar days unless an extension has been approved . . . ." Id at ¶ HH.

Defendant assert that Plaintiff filed one grievance in January of 2007, in which he asserts that only one of his Special Accommodations had been met. However, Defendants note that in that grievance, Plaintiff failed to specify any particular individual or dates in which the alleged violations occurred. (Defendants' Exhibit 14.) Plaintiff filed another grievance in July of 2008, in which Plaintiff failed to specifically name any of the Defendants, or to set forth any ...


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