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Griffin v. Malatinsky

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

June 29, 2018

NEVIN GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MALATINSKY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER (1) SUSTAINING IN PART AND OVERRULING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (DKT. 30), (2) ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (DKT. 27), AND (3) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS OR IN ALTERNATIVE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 21)

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is presently before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R&R) of Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti, issued on May 29, 2018 (Dkt. 27). In the R&R, the magistrate judge recommends that the Court grant Defendants William Malatinsky and Aurelio Rosario's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment (Dkt. 21). Plaintiff Nevin Griffin subsequently filed objections to the R&R (Dkt. 30); Defendants have since filed a response (Dkt. 31). For the reasons that follow, the Court sustains in part and overrules in part Griffin's objections, adopts in part and rejects in part the R&R, and grants Defendants' motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which a specific objection has been made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1). However, “a general objection to a magistrate's report, which fails to specify the issues of contention, does not satisfy the requirement that an objection be filed. The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995).

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “[c]ourts must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, accept all well-pled factual allegations as true, and determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief.” Albrecht v. Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir. 2010). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead specific factual allegations, and not just legal conclusions, in support of each claim. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-679 (2009). A complaint will be dismissed unless it states a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679; Bell Atlantic Corp. v Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         A court must grant “summary judgment 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). “In making this determination, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” U.S. S.E.C. v. Sierra Brokerage Servs., Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 327 (6th Cir. 2013). The court must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-252 (1986). “[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 250 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Furthermore, plaintiff “cannot rely on conjecture or conclusory accusations.” Arendale v. City of Memphis, 519 F.3d 587, 605 (6th Cir. 2008).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Griffin sets forth three objections to the magistrate judge's R&R: (i) the magistrate judge erred in recommending that Griffin's complaint should be dismissed as to Rosario for failure to exhaust all administrative remedies; (ii) the magistrate judge erred when he recommended that Defendants' actions did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and (iii) the magistrate judge erred in recommending that even if Defendants violated Griffin's Eighth Amendment rights, they are entitled to qualified immunity. The Court addresses each objection in turn.

         A. Objection One: Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Griffin first objects to the magistrate judge's recommendation that Griffin's Bivens claim against Rosario should be dismissed for failure to exhaust all administrative remedies prior to filing in federal court. The magistrate judge noted that while Griffin properly exhausted all of his administrative remedies against Malatinsky, he failed to properly exhaust his remedies as to Rosario because he attempted to file a grievance with the Federal Bureau of Prisons's (“BOP”) regional office prior to filing a grievance at the institution in which he was being held, in violation of the BOP's Administrative Remedy Program. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10-542.19.

         The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, 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). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with [the prison's] deadlines and other critical procedural rules.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). The failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense to be pled by the defendant and proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Lee v. Willey, 789 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 2015).

         Griffin does not contest that the procedures applicable to him are set out in the BOP's Administrative Remedy Program. The program requires inmates (i) to begin with an informal resolution of their issue with prison staff; (ii) if that fails, the prisoner must file a formal grievance using Form BP-9 with his institution's warden; (iii) if he is unsatisfied with the warden's response, the prisoner is required to the appropriate BOP regional office using Form BP-10; and (iv) if unsatisfied with the response from the regional office, the prisoner must present his final administrative appeal to the BOP's general counsel using Form BP-11. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.13-524.15.

         In his R&R, the magistrate judge notes that Griffin appealed directly to the regional office instead of first bringing his medical complaints to the staff at FCI Milan, the facility where he was incarcerated. Griffin argues that this failure to follow the Administrative Remedy Program is not grounds for dismissal, because “[u]nder the facts of this case, the defendants were served with ample notice that medical personnel had provided the plaintiff with inadequate medical care through their respective deliberate indifference.” Obj. at 2, PageID.505. However, an inmate is only permitted to bring a § 1983 claim without exhausting his administrative remedies where such remedies are not available. See Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016). Administrative remedies are only considered unavailable (i) where the administrative procedure “operates as a simple dead end - with officers unable or unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates”; (ii) where the administrative remedy scheme is “essentially unknowable” and thus “no ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it”; or (iii) “when prisoner administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” See id. at 1858-1861.

         While Griffin merely states in his objection that he did not need to exhaust his administrative remedies because Defendant had “ample notice” of his claims, his affidavit attached to his response to Defendants' motion provides support that he satisfied the third exception to the exhaustion requirement. In his affidavit, Griffin states that, following his hospitalization, he attempted to file a BP-9 against Rosario, but “staff members interfered with the process by destroying the . . . BP-9s[] that I attempted to file.” See Griffin Aff., Ex. 1 to Pl. Resp., ¶ 5 (Dkt. 25). In the R&R, the magistrate judge states that Griffin failed to satisfy the exhaustion requirement because he filed a BP-10 with the BOP regional office prior to filing a BP-9 at his institution. However, Griffin states in his affidavit that he was thwarted from filing a BP-9 because staff at his institution destroyed the form. Id. While the magistrate judge characterizes this statement as a “bare allegation” insufficient to defeat summary judgment, see Belser v. James, No. 16-2578, 2017 WL 5479595, at *2 (6th Cir. June 6, 2017), Griffin has alleged more than a mere refusal to issue the BP-9 form, instead alleging that staff at his facility ...


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