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Reeves v. Siddiq

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

June 5, 2018

RICHARD KYLE REEVES, #255 472, Plaintiff,
v.
DOCTOR TAHIR SIDDIQ, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Richard Reeves, an inmate incarcerated at the Bullock Correctional Facility (“Bullock”) in Union Springs, Alabama, files this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care and treatment. The named defendant is Dr. Tahir Siddiq. Reeves requests injunctive relief and damages. Doc. 1.

         Dr. Siddiq argues that Reeves' complaint against him is due to be dismissed because Reeves failed to exhaust an administrative remedy available to him through the prison system's medical care provider prior to the initiation of this case. Docs. 16 at 6-7 & 16-2. Dr. Siddiq bases his exhaustion defense on Reeves' failure to follow the available required administrative procedures at Bullock regarding the claims presented. Doc. 16 at 6-7. In addition, Dr. Siddiq maintains, and the evidentiary materials-including Reeves' medical records-indicate that Reeves received appropriate medical treatment during the time relevant to the matters alleged in the complaint. Doc. 16-1 & 16-3.

         The court provided Reeves an opportunity to file a response to Dr. Siddiq's special report in which he was advised, among other things, to “specifically address Defendant's argument that he [] failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).” Doc. 23 at 1 (footnote omitted). The order advised Reeves that his response should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Doc. 17 at 3. This order further cautioned Reeves that unless “sufficient legal cause” is shown within ten days of entry of this order “why such action should not be undertaken, the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for his filing a response to this order] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a [dispositive] motion . . . and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with law.” Doc. 17 at 3. Reeves has not filed a response to Dr. Siddiq's report.

         The court will treat Dr. Siddiq's special report as a motion to dismiss regarding the exhaustion defense and resolve this motion in his favor. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-75 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted) (“[A]n exhaustion defense . . . is not ordinarily the proper subject for a summary judgment [motion]; instead, it should be raised in a motion to dismiss, or be treated as such if raised in a motion for summary judgment.”); see also Trias v. Florida Dept. of Corrs., 587 Fed.Appx. 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (affirming district court's construing of a defendant's “motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies”).

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Exhaustion

         In addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e about exhaustion, the Eleventh Circuit has

recognized that [t]he plain language of th[is] statute makes exhaustion a precondition to filing an action in federal court. This means that until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted, a prisoner is precluded from filing suit in federal court.

Leal v. Ga. Dep't of Corrs., 254 F.3d 1276, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Furthermore, “the question of exhaustion under the PLRA [is] a ‘threshold matter' that [federal courts must] address before considering the merits of the case, ” and that cannot be waived. Myles v. Miami-Dade Cnty. Corr. & Rehab. Dep't., 476 Fed.Appx. 364, 366 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2004)).

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. 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.

Myles, 476 Fed.Appx. at 366 (citations and internal quotations omitted). 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]. The judge properly may consider facts outside of the pleadings 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.” Trias, 587 Fed.Appx. at 535. Based on the foregoing, the Eleventh Circuit has rejected an inmate-plaintiff's argument that “disputed facts as to exhaustion should be decided” only after a trial either before a jury or judge. Id. at 534.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Reeves challenges the medical care he received for an injury to his right foot in September of 2017. Doc. 1. In response to this claim, Dr. Siddiq asserts that the case may be dismissed against him because Reeves did not properly exhaust the administrative remedy provided by the institutional medical care provider prior to filing this complaint, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Doc. 16 at 6-7. As explained above, federal law directs this court to treat Dr. Siddiq's response as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust an administrative ...


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