United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
KENNETH R. HARRISON, #160623, Plaintiff,
CORIZON MEDICAL SERVICES, Defendant.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Kenneth R. Harrison ("Harrison"), a former state inmate, challenges the medical treatment provided to him for an atrial septal defect ("ASD"), congenital heart condition, during his incarceration in the Alabama prison system. Complaint - Doc. No. 1 at 3. Specifically, Harrison contends that after his appointment with a free-world cardiologist in April of 2014 the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to his heart condition. Harrison names Corizon Medical Services as the sole defendant in this cause of action. He seeks monetary damages for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Id. at 4.
The defendant filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Harrison's claims for relief. In these documents, the defendant adamantly denies that it acted with deliberate indifference to Harrison's heart condition. The defendant further asserts that the complaint is due to be dismissed because prior to filing this cause of action Harrison failed to properly exhaust an administrative remedy available to him during his incarceration in the Alabama prison system. Defendant's Special Report - Doc. No. 6 at 6-7. The defendant bases its exhaustion defense on Harrison's failure to file a grievance in accordance with the grievance procedure provided by Corizon regarding the claims raised in the instant complaint. Id. at 7.
"[A]n exhaustion defense... is not ordinarily the proper subject for a summary judgment; instead it should be raised in a motion to dismiss, or be treated as such if raised in a motion for summary judgment." Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-75 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted); Trias v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 587 F.Appx. 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (holding that the district court properly construed defendant's "motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies"). The court will therefore treat the defendant's report as a motion to dismiss. Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1375; Order of February 12, 2015 - Doc. No. 9 (advising Harrison that the defendant's report will be treated as a dispositive motion and explaining the manner in which to respond to such a motion).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Eleventh Circuit has determined that the question of exhaustion under the PLRA [is] a "threshold matter" that [federal courts must] address before considering the merits of the case. Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2004). Because exhaustion is mandated by the statute, [a court has] no discretion to waive this requirement. Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1325-26 (11th Cir. 1998).
Myles v. Miami-Dade Cnty. Corr. and Rehab. Dep't, 476 F.Appx. 364, 366 (11th Cir. 2012). Based on the foregoing, the court will "resolve this issue first." Id.
When deciding whether a prisoner has exhausted his remedies, the court should first consider the plaintiff's and the defendants' versions of the facts, and if they conflict, take the plaintiff's version of the facts as true. "If in that light, the defendant is entitled to have the complaint dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, it must be dismissed." Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1373-74). If the complaint is not subject to dismissal at this step, then the court should make "specific findings in order to resolve the disputed factual issues related to exhaustion." Id. (citing Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1373-74, 1376).
Myles, 476 F.Appx. at 366. Consequently, a district court
may resolve disputed factual issues where necessary to the disposition of a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust [without a hearing]. See [ Turner, 541 F.3d at 1082]. The judge properly may consider facts outside of the pleadings [i.e., evidentiary materials submitted in support of the special report] to resolve a factual dispute as to exhaustion where doing so does not decide the merits, and the parties have a sufficient opportunity to develop the record. Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1376.
Trias, 587 F.Appx. at 535.
Upon review of the undisputed facts of this case as evidenced by the evidentiary materials filed by the defendant, the court concludes that the ...