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Williams-Bey v. Rahming

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

April 26, 2019

DEVORIS WILLIAMS-BEY, #213 941, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. RAHMING, WILCOTTE, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN RUSS WALKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Devoris Williams, an inmate incarcerated at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, 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. Wilcotte Rahming. Williams requests injunctive relief and damages. Doc. 1.

         Dr. Rahming argues that Williams' complaint against him is due to be dismissed because Williams failed to exhaust an administrative remedy available to him through the prison system's medical care provider prior to filing this cause of action. Doc. 17 at 6-7; Docs. 17-3, 17-4, 17-5. Dr. Rahming bases his exhaustion defense on Williams' failure to follow the prison medical provider's available administrative procedures regarding the claims presented. Id. In addition, Dr. Rahming maintains - and the evidentiary materials, including Williams' medical records, suggest-that Williams received appropriate medical care, treatment, and medication during the time relevant to the matters alleged. Docs. 17-1, 17-2, 17-6.

         The court provided Williams an opportunity to file a response to Dr. Rahming's special report in which he was advised, among other things, to “specifically address: 1. 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”)… .” and “2. Defendant's assertions that the complaint fails to establish that [he] in any way acted in violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights.” Doc. 18 at 1-2 (footnote omitted). The order advised Williams that his response should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Id. at 3. This 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 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.” Id. at 3-4. Williams has not filed a response to Dr. Rahming's report.

         The court will treat Dr. Rahming's special report as a motion to dismiss regarding the exhaustion defense. See Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-1375 (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 Corrections, 587 Fed. App'x 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (District court properly construed 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 concerning 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 law is well settled that “the question of exhaustion under the PLRA [is] a ‘threshold matter' that [federal courts must] address before considering the merits of the case, ” which 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

         Williams challenges the provision of medical care he received at Kilby regarding a prescription medication prescribed by Dr. Rahming in October of 2016. Doc. 1. In response to this claim, Dr. Rahming asserts this case may be dismissed against him because Williams did not exhaust properly 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. 17 at 6-8. As explained, federal law directs this court to treat Dr. Rahming's response as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust an ...


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