United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
U.S.C. § 1983 action for damages and injunctive relief
involves a dispute over the adequacy of medical care and
treatment afforded Plaintiff Jeffrey Clegg
[“Clegg”] during his incarceration at the Bullock
Correctional Facility [“Bullock] in Union Springs,
Alabama. Clegg names as the defendant Nurse Jeffrey
filed an answer, special report, supplemental special
reports, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing
Clegg's claims for relief. Docs. 6, 8, 17, 34, 39. In
these documents, Sanders denies he acted in violation of
Clegg's constitutional rights. Sanders also asserts the
complaint is due to be dismissed because Clegg failed to
exhaust an administrative remedy available to him through the
prison system's medical care provider regarding his
claims prior to filing the complaint. Doc. 54. The court then
issued an order providing Clegg an opportunity to file a
response to Sanders' 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”) [prior to filing
this federal civil action] . . . .” Doc. 55 at 1
(footnote omitted). The order also advised Clegg his response
should be supported by affidavits or statements made under
penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Doc. 55
at 3. The order further notified the parties 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
supplemental special report (Doc. 54) and any supporting
evidentiary material as a motion to dismiss and/or motion for
summary judgment and, (2) after considering any response as
allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with
law.” Doc. 55 at 3. Clegg has filed nothing in response
to said order.
to the court's order of October 22, 2019 (Doc. 55), the
court deems it appropriate to treat the supplemental special
report filed by Defendant Sanders (Doc. 54) as a motion to
dismiss regarding the exhaustion defense. This case is now
pending on Sanders' motion to dismiss. Bryant v.
Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-75 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal
quotations omitted) (holding “an 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.” Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d
1368, 1374-1375 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations
omitted); Trias v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, 587
Fed.Appx. 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (holding the district
court properly construed defendant's “motion for
summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies[.]”).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e
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.
App'x 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. App'x at 366 (citations and
internal quotations omitted).
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. App'x 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.
challenges the adequacy of medical care Sanders provided to
him at the Bullock Correctional Facility in October and
November of 2016 regarding a chronic dry eye condition.
Sanders denies the allegations and also asserts this case
against him is subject to dismissal because Clegg failed to
exhaust the administrative remedy provided to him by the
institutional medical care provider prior ...