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Murray v. Rubenstein

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

October 18, 2017




         Pending before the court is Defendant Corporal Paul Donelson's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 222]. The plaintiff filed a Response [ECF No. 242], and the defendant filed a Reply [ECF No. 247]. The motion is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated below, the defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. Legal Standard

         To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case.” Lester v. Gilbert, 85 F.Supp.3d 851, 857 (S.D. W.Va. 2015) (quoting News & Observer Publ'g. Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010)). “A genuine issue of material fact exists if . . . a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-movant.” Runyon v. Hannah, No. 2:12-1394, 2013 WL 2151235, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. May 16, 2013) (citations omitted); Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 824 (4th Cir. 1991) (“Disposition by summary judgment is appropriate . . . where the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-movant.”). The moving party bears the burden of showing that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court will not “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Instead, the court will draw any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmoving party has the burden of proof on an essential element of his or her case and does not make, after adequate time for discovery, a showing sufficient to establish that element. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. The nonmoving party must satisfy this burden of proof by offering more than a mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of his or her position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or unsupported speculation, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of summary judgment. See Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013); Stone v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 191 (4th Cir. 1997).

         II. Prison Litigation Reform Act

         The defendant argues that summary judgment is proper because the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) and the West Virginia Prison Litigation Reform Act (“WVPLRA”). Mem. Law Supp. Def. Corporal Paul Donelson's Mot. Summ. J. 5-8 (“Def.'s Mem.”) [ECF No. 223]; Def. Paul Donelson's Reply to Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 3-5 (“Def.'s Reply”) [ECF No. 247].

         The PLRA states that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title . . . by a prisoner confined in any . . . correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The Supreme Court has held that the “PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

         “Not only must a prisoner exhaust his administrative remedies, but he must also do so properly.” Wells v. Parkersburg Work Release Ctr., No. 2:15-cv-04103, 2016 WL 696680, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Jan. 19, 2016), adopted by 2016 WL 707457 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 19, 2016). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Id. (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006)).

         Like the PLRA, the WVPLRA “require[s] inmates to exhaust their administrative remedies before they bring a lawsuit.” Legg v. Adkins, No. 2:16-cv-01371, 2017 WL 722604, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. 2017) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); W.Va. Code § 25-1A-2a(i)). Under the WVPLRA, “[a]n inmate may not bring a civil action regarding an ordinary administrative remedy until the procedures promulgated by the agency have been exhausted.” W.Va. Code § 25-1A-2(c). The WVPLRA defines an ordinary administrative remedy as “a formal administrative process by which an inmate submits a grievance seeking redress or presenting concerns regarding any general or particular aspect of prison life. . . . An ordinary administrative remedy includes, but is not limited to, . . . staff treatment or some other alleged wrong.” Id. § 25-1A-2(a). Under the WVPLRA,

An ordinary administrative remedy is considered exhausted when the inmate's grievance complies with duly promulgated rules and regulations regarding inmate grievance procedures, has been accepted, fully appealed and has received a final decision from the Commissioner of Corrections or the Commissioner's designee, or the Executive Director of the Regional Jail Authority, or the Director's designee.

§ 25-1A-2(d).

         If a plaintiff fails to exhaust his or her administrative remedies under the PLRA, then the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Legg v. Adkins, No. 2:16-cv-01371, 2017 WL 722604, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. 2017). Whether an administrative remedy has been exhausted for purposes of the PLRA “is a question of law to be determined by the judge.” Creel v. Hudson, No. 2:14-cv-10648, 2017 WL 4004579, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. 2017) (citing Drippe v. Tobelinski, 604 F.3d 778, 782 (3d Cir. 2010)). Thus, disputed questions of fact regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies are resolved by the court. See id.

         At the time the plaintiff filed his grievances regarding the issues in this case, Section 90 of the West Virginia Code provided the controlling procedures. The steps for ...

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