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Jones v. State

March 18, 2010

LORENZO L. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge

Hon. Victoria A. Roberts

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiff Lorenzo Jones pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case is back before the Court following appeals to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. The lengthy procedural history is outlined below.

The matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 68]. Jones filed a Response. For the reasons stated, the Motion is GRANTED.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Jones filed this civil rights lawsuit pro se on November 15, 2002, when he was a Michigan prison inmate incarcerated at the Saginaw Correctional Facility ("SCF"). He has since been released on parole, on February 17, 2009 (see http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2.htm).

Jones' Complaint named Warden B. Bock, Deputy Warden V. Chaplin, Classification Director P. Morrison, Correction Officer Opanasenko, Nurse Konkle, and Dr. Aldabaugh as Defendants, and sought relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to medical needs, retaliation and harassment.

Defendants moved for dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court referred the matter to a Magistrate, who issued a report and recommendation that the claims against Bock, Chaplin, Konkle and Aldabaugh be dismissed, and that the claims against Morrison and Opanasenko proceed. The Court accepted the recommendation and dismissed claims against Bock, Chaplin, Konkle and Aldabaugh. However, the Court overruled the Magistrate's finding regarding Morrison and Opanasenko, and dismissed the claims against them as well. The Court ruled that Jones did not properly plead exhaustion, because he did not state his claims with specificity and did not show the claims were exhausted by attaching copies of the grievance dispositions to the complaint. See Doc. 34.

Jones appealed the ruling regarding Opanasenko and Morrison. (He did not appeal the dismissal of Bock, Chaplin, Konkle and Aldabaugh.). In a per curiam decision, the Sixth Circuit affirmed this Court's ruling, finding that the "total exhaustion" rule applied in the Sixth Circuit and Jones failed to comply with the exhaustion requirement as defined by Sixth Circuit precedent. See Jones v. Bock et al, 135 Fed Appx 837 (6th Circuit 2005).

The United States Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, concluding that there was no heightened pleading standard for exhaustion of administrative remedies, but rather that exhaustion was an affirmative defense to be raised and proven by the defendant. See Jones v. Bock et al, 549 U.S. 199, 216, 127 S Ct 910, 166 L Ed 2d 798 (2007). The Supreme Court further held there was no total exhaustion requirement in the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. at 223-224. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit, which in turn remanded the case to this Court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's Jones opinion.

Counsel filed an appearance for Jones on April 29, 2009, the day after the Sixth Circuit's appeal mandate issued. Defendants subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is now before the Court. As explained below, only the claims against the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), Morrison, and Opanasenko remain, and are addressed in this Order.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The events which form the basis of Jones' claims occurred during his incarceration at SCF. Jones' factual allegations are accepted as true for purposes of this Motion.

On November 14, 2000, Jones was transported in a prison van which was involved in a highway roll-over accident. Jones suffered serious personal injuries, including a cervical fracture and spinal cord injury which required surgery. He has permanent impairments in strength, sensation, coordination and function. Jones claims the MDOC had specific knowledge of his injuries, due to civil litigation after the accident.

Jones arrived at the SCF on April 25, 2001. Defendant Paul Morrison, MDOC Classification Director, completed Jones' initial classification screening on May 2, 2001. Classification screening is conducted to classify prisoners for school and work assignments. Although prisoners may state a preference for work assignments, such preferences do not guarantee a specific work assignment. Jones gave a preference for law library or "pop can man" jobs, but was advised by Morrison that he might not get those jobs because they were in high demand. Morrison also advised Jones that Jones would be placed in a general job pool.

During Jones' classification screening, Morrison prepared a Program Classification Report, Form CSX-175, with Morrison's program recommendations for Jones, including referrals for work assignments. The Form has a box for medical status, with options to check: "no assignment," "light duty" or "full duty," and a box for medical comments; Morrison left both blank.

However, according to Jones, he told Morrison about his medical condition during the classification screening. Jones also says his injuries were obvious upon casual observation because he wore a neck brace and walked with a cane. Jones alleges that despite these limitations, Morrison placed him in a work classification that Morrison knew or should have known was physically impossible for Jones to perform without re-injury or aggravation of his injuries. Morrison denies these contentions.

On May 15, 2001, a Special Accommodation Notice ("SAN"), Form CHJ-244, was approved for Jones. The SAN Form instructs that '[t]his form is to be completed only when medical condition or physical disability affects placement, housing, work assignment, or requires special supplies/equipment."The SAN Form further instructs that "[i]f accommodations are temporary[,] record date accommodation must be reviewed beside checkbox"; no date is recorded on the form. The SAN shows that Jones required a bottom bunk, neck brace and wooden cane; it does not list work restrictions.

On July 19, 2001, Jones was assigned to an unskilled, light duty work assignment as the Big Yard Equipment Handler. The job required Jones to lift the standard baseball equipment bag (which contained gloves, balls, and two bats), horseshoes, basketballs and other sports equipment, as well as bend, stoop and stand for long periods during his work hours.

Jones says he immediately informed the supervising officer, Defendant Opanasenko, when he reported to his assigned work area, that he was unable to perform the job due to his injuries. Jones says Opanasenko told Jones nothing was wrong with him, claimed Jones was faking his condition, and threatened to write Jones a misconduct ticket if Jones did not perform the work assignment. Jones says he was wearing a neck brace, leg brace, walked with a cane, and was taking prescribed pain medication at the time.

After that incident, Jones claims Opanasenko engaged in several harassing and retaliatory acts against him. On August 20, 2001, Opanasenko threatened to place Jones in segregation after Jones refused to lift a baseball bag. On August 21, 2001, Opanasenko wrote a false work evaluation which stated that Jones (1) was a poor worker, (2) appeared threatening when stating that he could not perform the work duties, and (3) wished to be removed from the work assignment; Opanasenko recommended Jones' termination. On the same day, in an attempt to have Jones placed in administrative segregation, Opanasenko told a Lieutenant that Jones stared at Opanasenko in a threatening manner. For the next few days, Opanasenko winked at Jones and made comments such as, "how does it feel to get paperwork written against you," or "you need to quit it, there's nothing wrong with you." Opanasenko denies these contentions.

On September 25, 2001, Jones filed a Step I grievance against "the Classification Director, Health Care, Warden, Deputy Warden and Officer Opanasenko." After the Step I grievance was not resolved to Jones' satisfaction, he filed Step II and Step III appeals. The appeals officer concluded the Step I and Step II responses adequately addressed the merits of Jones' grievance, and closed the file.

Jones' Complaint alleges the actions of Morrison and Opanasenko violated his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution; inflicted emotional distress on him; and, caused him physical pain and suffering. Jones seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. Defendants move for summary judgment.

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Fed. R. Civ. P 56(c), summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 478 (6th Cir. 1995). A fact is "material" and precludes a grant of summary judgment if "proof of that fact would have [the] effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of the cause of action or defense asserted by the parties, and would necessarily affect application of appropriate principle[s] of law to the rights and obligations of the parties." Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and it must also draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Cox v. Kentucky Dept. of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995).

IV. ANALYSIS

A. Overview

Jones seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which confers a private federal right of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42, 45 n. 2, 104 S.Ct. 2924, 82 L.Ed. 2d 36 (1984); Stack v. Killian, 96 F.3d 159, 161 (6th Cir.1996).

To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the defendant deprived him of this federal right under color of law. Jones v. Duncan, 840 F.2d 359, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1988); 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the ...


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