United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
U.S.C. § 1983 action for damages involves a dispute over
the adequacy of medical care and treatment afforded to
Plaintiff Wendy Williams during her incarceration at the
Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman in Wetumpka,
Alabama. Williams names as defendants Dr. David
Gams, Nurse Chappell, Corizon, Nurse Blount (collectively
"the Medical Defendants"), and Wardens Bobby
Barrett and Gwendolyn Tarrance (collectively "the
filed answers, special reports, a supplemental special
report, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing
Williams' claims for relief. In these documents,
Defendants deny that they acted in violation of Williams'
constitutional rights. The Medical Defendants also assert in
their supplemental special report that the complaint is due
to be dismissed because Williams failed to exhaust an
administrative remedy available to her through the prison
system's medical care provider. Docs. 23 & 77-1. The
Medical Defendants base their exhaustion defense on
Williams' failure to submit any medical grievances or
grievance appeals regarding her claims. Doc. 77-1. In
addition, the Medical Defendants maintain, and the
evidentiary materials-including Williams' medical
records-indicate that she received appropriate medical
treatment during the time relevant to the matters alleged in
the complaint. See Docs. 35, 35-1, 35-2, 35-3 &
court granted Williams an opportunity to file a response to
Defendants' reports, advising her to, among other things,
"specifically address the Medical Defendants'
argument that she  failed to exhaust her available
administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. §
l997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA")." Doc. 78 at 1 (footnote omitted).
The order advised Williams that her response should be
supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of
perjury and other evidentiary materials. Doc. 78 at 2-3. The
order further cautioned Williams 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 her
filing a response to this order] and without further notice
to the parties (1) treat the special reports and supplemental
special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a
motion for summary judgment or motion to dismiss, whichever
is appropriate and (2) after considering any response as
allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with
law." Doc. 78 at 3-4. Williams filed responses to
Defendants' special reports. See Docs. 62, 63,
65 & 68. She has not, however, filed a response to the
Medical Defendants' supplemental special report within
the time allowed by the court.
court will treat the Medical Defendants' special report,
as supplemented, as a motion to dismiss regarding the
exhaustion defense and resolve this motion in the Medical
Defendants' favor. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d
1368, 1374-75 (11th Cir. 2008) ("[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. Fla. Dept. of
Corrs., 587 Fed.Appx. 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (holding
that the district court properly construed a defendant's
"motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies"). In
addition, the court will treat the Correctional
Defendants' report as a motion for summary judgment and
resolve this motion in their favor.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § l997e
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. Dept. 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. Dept., 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 plaintiffs and the
defendants' versions of the facts, and if they conflict,
take the plaintiffs 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-plaintiffs argument that "disputed facts as to
exhaustion should be decided" only after a trial either
before a jury or judge. Id. at 534.
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine
[dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d
1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)
("The court shall 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."). The party moving for summary judgment
"always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the [record, including
pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of
material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by
presenting evidence indicating that there is no dispute of
material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has
failed to present evidence to support some element on which
it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at
Correctional Defendants have met their evidentiary burden.
Thus, the burden shifts to Williams to establish, with
appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine
dispute material to her case exists. Clark v. Coats &
Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991);
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3);
Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590,
593-94 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that, once the moving party
meets its burden, "the non-moving party must then go
beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or sworn
statements], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file," demonstrate that there is a
genuine dispute of material fact) (internal quotations
omitted). This court will also consider "specific
facts" pleaded in a plaintiffs sworn complaint when
considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell
v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir.
2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the
non-moving party produces evidence that would allow a
reasonable factfinder to return a verdict in its favor.
Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of
Public Educ, 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).
factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable
to the non-moving party and pro se complaints are
entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro
se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing
by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact.
See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006);
Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir.
1990). Williams' pro se status alone does not
compel the court to disregard elementary principles of
production and proof in a civil case.