United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on an
Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff, an indigent state
inmate, in which he complains that he injured his left index
finger on September 17, 2017, while confined at the Houston
County Jail. (Doc. 5) at 2-3. Specifically, he alleges that
his finger “was smashed in the cell door due to a
faulty hydraulic door stopper.” (Doc. 5) at 3.
filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials
addressing Plaintiff's claim for relief. In these
filings, Defendants deny they acted in violation of
Plaintiff's constitutional rights and further argue that
this case is due to be dismissed because prior to filing this
cause of action, Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust the
administrative remedy available to him at the Houston County
Jail with respect to the claim presented in the complaint.
(Doc. 18) at 5-7. Defendants base their exhaustion defense on
Plaintiff's failure to file a grievance regarding the
claim presented in this case. (Doc. 18-4) at 2; (Doc. 18-5)
at 2. Defendants further argue that because Plaintiff did not
file a grievance within the time required by the grievance
procedure, he “failed to exhaust his remedies and can
never exhaust them.” (Doc. 18) at 7.
review of Defendants' special report, the Court issued an
order providing Plaintiff an opportunity to file a response
to the report in which he was specifically directed to
address “the defendants' argument that . . .
[h]is claims are due to be dismissed because he failed to
exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)” prior to filing this federal
civil action. (Doc. 22) at 1. The Order also advised
Plaintiff that his response should be supported by affidavits
or statements made under penalty of perjury and/or other
appropriate evidentiary materials. (Doc. 22) at 3. In
addition, the order cautioned Plaintiff that unless
“sufficient legal cause” is shown within
fifteen (15) 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] and without further notice to the parties
(1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary
materials as a motion to dismiss or motion for summary
judgment, and (2) after considering any response as allowed
by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with the
law.” (Doc. 22) at 4 (footnote omitted). The time
allowed Plaintiff to file a response to the Order expired on
March 18, 2019. To date, Plaintiff has filed no response to
the arguments set forth by Defendants as required by the
March 1, 2019 Order.
on the foregoing, the Court finds it appropriate to treat the
special report filed by Defendants (Doc. 18) as a motion to
dismiss with respect to the exhaustion defense. Thus, this
case is now pending on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
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.”); Trias v. Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 587 Fed.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
STANDARD OF REVIEW
addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e as to
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.” Higginbottom v. Carter, 223
F.3d 1259, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (quoting
Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 643-44 (6th Cir.
1999)). This means that “until such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted, ” a prisoner
is precluded from filing suit in federal court. See
id. (affirming dismissal of prisoner's civil rights
suit for failure to satisfy the mandatory exhaustion
requirements of the PLRA); Harris v. Garner, 190
F.3d 1279, 1286 (11th Cir. 1999) (“reaffirm[ing] that
section 1997e(a) imposes a mandatory requirement on prisoners
seeking judicial relief to exhaust their administrative
remedies” before filing suit
in federal court), modified on other grounds, 216
F.3d 970 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc); Miller v.
Tanner, 196 F.3d 1190, 1193 (11th Cir. 1999) (holding
that under the PLRA's amendments to § 1997e(a),
“[a]n inmate incarcerated in a state prison . . . must
first comply with the grievance procedures established by the
state department of corrections before filing a federal
lawsuit under section 1983.”); Harper v.
Jenkin, 179 F.3d 1311, 1312 (11th Cir. 1999) (per
curiam) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's civil suit for
failure to satisfy the mandatory exhaustion requirements of
§ 1997e(a)); Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321,
1328 (11th Cir. 1998) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's
Bivens action under § 1997e(a) for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit in
Leal v. Ga. Dep't of Corr., 254 F.3d 1276, 1279
(11th Cir. 2001) (emphasis in original). 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. Because
exhaustion is mandated by the statute, [a federal court has]
no discretion to waive this requirement.” Myles v.
Miami-Dade Cty. Corr. and Rehab. Dep't, 476
Fed.Appx. 364, 366 (11th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks
omitted) (citing Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278,
1286 (11th Cir. 2004); Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d
1321, 1325-26 (11th Cir. 1998)). The Court will therefore
“resolve this issue first.” Myles, 476
Fed.Appx. at 366.
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 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Turner
v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir. 2008)).
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 (internal citations omitted). Based on the
foregoing, the Eleventh Circuit specifically rejected the
argument that “disputed facts as to exhaustion should
be decided by a jury [or other factfinder].”
review of the Amended Complaint, Defendants' special
report and the undisputed evidentiary materials filed in
support thereof, the Court concludes that Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss is due to be granted.
complains of an injury suffered during his prior
incarceration at the Houston County Jail. In response to the
complaint, Defendants assert that this case is subject to
dismissal because Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust the
administrative remedy provided at the jail prior to ...