United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. STAN BAKER, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at the Georgia Diagnostic Center in Jackson, Georgia, filed a cause of action contesting certain conditions of his confinement while he was housed at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. (Doc. 1.) Defendants Stanley Williams, James Deal, Andrew McFarlane, Eric Smokes, and Johnny Davis ("Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 15.) Plaintiff filed a Response, (doc. 20), and Defendants filed a Reply. (Doc. 23.) Plaintiff filed several Surreplies. (Docs. 28, 29, 30.) For the reasons which follow, Defendants' Motion should be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint should be DISMISSED, without prejudice. Additionally, Plaintiff should be DENIED leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
Plaintiff claims he informed an officer and Defendant Smokes upon his arrival at Smith State Prison that his "affiliation" was wrong. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff contends he was placed in a single man cell in administrative segregation because of the violent assaults between rival gang members at the prison. Plaintiff states Defendant McFarlane instructed him to pack his things and move to a two man cell about a month after his arrival at the prison. Plaintiff asserts he was later given a cell mate who is a member of a rival gang, even though there was no one else in the cell with him initially. Plaintiff also asserts he informed all Defendants on a daily basis that they needed to move Plaintiff out of that cell because he and his cell mate were members of rival gangs.
By example, Plaintiff maintains Defendant McFarlane "assured" Plaintiff that things would be fine and told Plaintiff if he had any problems to notify the floor officer and "they will be handled." (Id. at p. 6.) Additionally, Plaintiff asserts he told Defendant Davis he and his cell mate were having problems since they were not of the same gang affiliation, and Defendant Davis told Plaintiff to give him a few days to have the two inmates separated. Further, Plaintiff asserts he informed Defendants Smokes, Deal, Williams, and Davis on August 28, 2013, of the severity of the problems between him and his roommate because he was trying to avoid an altercation. However, Plaintiff maintains, Defendants Smokes, Deal, Williams, and Davis left this area and forgot all about Plaintiff and his concern for his safety. (Id. at p. 8.) Plaintiff alleges he was not moved, and his cell mate stabbed him in the face, hands, left arm, and left leg while he was sleeping on August 31, 2013. (Id. at pp. 12, 14.) Plaintiff contends he sustained several injuries as a result of this stabbing.
Plaintiff alleges that he was taken to the hospital for medical treatment and, upon his return to the prison, he was placed in a single man cell. Plaintiff asserts he noticed several single man cells which were empty where he could have been placed before he was stabbed. (Id. at p. 14.) Plaintiff also asserts he was once again placed in a two man cell about a week later and was placed in a cell with a member of a rival gang. Plaintiff contends he voiced his concerns about this arrangement, he was not moved, and his cell mate attacked him with a knife. Plaintiff asserts he was able to take the knife away from his cellmate before he was stabbed. (Id. at p. 16.)
After the requisite frivolity review, Plaintiff's Complaint was served upon Defendants on the basis of Plaintiff's allegations that they were deliberately indifferent to his safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 8.)
Defendants set forth several grounds for dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint in their Motion. First, Defendants aver Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to the filing of his Complaint. Defendants note Plaintiff fails to state a claim against them in their official capacities. Defendants also note Plaintiff fails to state a viable Eighth Amendment claim against them in their individual capacities. Finally, Defendants maintain they are entitled to qualified immunity. As set forth below, the undersigned agrees Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to the filing of his Complaint, and his Complaint is due to be dismissed on this ground.
I. Standard of Review
The determination of whether an inmate exhausted his available administrative remedies prior to filing a cause of action in federal court is a matter of abatement and should be raised in a motion to dismiss. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374 (11th Cir. 2008). "Even though a failure-to-exhaust defense is non-jurisdictional, it is like" a jurisdictional defense because such a determination "ordinarily does not deal with the merits" of a particular cause of action. Id. (internal punctuation and citation omitted). Further, a judge "may resolve factual questions" in instances where exhaustion of administrative remedies is a defense before the court. Id.
Where Congress explicitly mandates, prisoners seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations must first exhaust inmate grievance procedures before filing suit in federal court. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). Section 1997e(a) of Title 42 of the United States Code states, "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." In Porter, the United States Supreme Court held that exhaustion of available administrative remedies is mandatory. Porter, 534 U.S. at 523. The Supreme Court has noted exhaustion must be "proper." Woodford v. Ngo, 541 U.S. 81, 92 (2006). "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. at 90-91. In other words, an institution's requirements define what is considered exhaustion. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007).
In Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1079 (11th Cir. 2008), the Eleventh Circuit clarified how the lower courts are to examine the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies. First, the court is to take the plaintiff's version of the facts regarding exhaustion as true. Id. at 1082. If, even under the plaintiff's version of the facts, the plaintiff has not exhausted, the complaint must be dismissed. Id. However, if the parties' conflicting facts leave a dispute as to whether plaintiff has exhausted, the court need not accept all of plaintiff's facts as true. Id. Rather, "the court then proceeds to make specific findings in order to resolve the disputed factual issues[.]" Id. "Once the court makes findings on the disputed issues of fact, it then decides whether under those findings the prisoner has exhausted his available administrative remedies." Id. at 1083. The Eleventh Circuit has held that a district court may consider materials outside of the pleadings and resolve factual disputes regarding exhaustion in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss so long as the factual disputes do not decide the merits of the case. See Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1376-77.
The requirement that the exhaustion of remedies occur "first in an agency setting allows the agency [to] develop the necessary factual background upon which decisions should be based' and giv[es] the agency a chance to discover and correct its own errors.'" Green v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 212 F.Appx. 869, 871 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1327 (11th Cir. 1998) (first alteration in original)). "However, while [Section] 1997e(a) requires that a prisoner provide as much relevant information as he reasonably can in the administrative grievance process, it does not require more.'" Id. (quoting Brown v. Sikes, 212 F.3d 1205, 1207 (11th Cir. 2000)). Nevertheless, the purpose of Section 1997e(a) is not that "fact-intensive litigation" result over whether every fact relevant to the cause of action was included in the grievance. Hooks v. Rich, CV605-65, 2006 WL 565909, at *5 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 7, 2006) (internal citation omitted). "As long as the basic purposes of exhaustion are fulfilled, there does not appear to be any reason to require a prisoner plaintiff to present fully developed legal and factual claims at the administrative level.'" Id. ...