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Hines v. Nazaire

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 28, 2017

Deborah Hines, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Yvon Nazaire, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.

         Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles recommends dismissing Plaintiff Hines's Recast Complaint (Doc. 6) because Hines failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Doc. 29 at 3-4. Hines objects. Doc. 30. The Court has reviewed the Recommendation and has made a de novo determination that the Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that Hines failed to demonstrate exhaustion of her administrative remedies.

         On April 15, 2014, Plaintiff Hines filed civil action 5:14-cv-147 asserting an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Nazaire for prescribing thyroid medication even though Hines had a healthy thyroid and then abruptly discontinuing it, causing significant injuries. Hines v. Nazaire, 5:14-cv-147-MTT-CHW, ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Nazaire filed a motion to dismiss asserting that Hines had not exhausted her administrative remedies. Id., ECF Doc. 20. After considering Hines's numerous and voluminous responsive filings (see id., ECF Docs. 23, 33, 35-38, 40) and her related amendments to her complaint (see id., ECF Doc. 29, 32), the Magistrate Judge recommended that Hines's claims against Nazaire be dismissed for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. See id., ECF Doc. 42. On August 8, 2015, the Court, after considering Hines's two objections (see id., ECF Docs. 44, 46), a reply supporting her objections (Doc. 48), and her supplemental complaint (see id., ECF Doc. 53), adopted the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Hines's claims against Nazaire be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies (the “First Nazaire Order”). See id., ECF Doc. 55. This ruling is now on appeal. See id., ECF Doc. 103.[1]

         On November 10, 2015, Hines filed this action, making allegations nearly identical to those in her first action. See Doc. 1, rescast, Doc. 6. Nazaire moved for dismissal of Hines's complaint, asserting the statute of limitations, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, collateral estoppel, res judicata, and failure to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment.[2] Doc. 23 at 1. Hines filed a fifteen-page response and a fourteen-page supplemental response. Docs. 25; 27. The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissal of Hines's claim because her allegations of exhaustion here are “almost identical to her previous description of her efforts to exhaust.” Doc. 29 at 3 n.2. The Magistrate Judge noted:

Plaintiff puts forth no allegation, evidence, or argument to suggest that there has been a change in the exhaustion issue such that would change the Court's finding. Plaintiff had a full opportunity to present her case-she, in fact, had ample opportunity to develop the record on exhaustion, covering the same assertions she makes in the instant action. See Hines v. Nazaire, 5:14-cv-147-MTT-CHW, ECF Nos. 1, 23, 37, 38, 46, and 48. The Court found that Plaintiff had not exhausted the claims she asserts here. Plaintiff has presented no new evidence or differing claims. Plaintiff's disagreement with the outcome of her initial lawsuit does not entitle her to another opportunity to litigate. For these reasons, the Court recommends granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust.

Id. at 3-4.

         As Hines points out, in the First Nazaire Order, the Court found that Hines had filed at least one informal grievance and an appeal, but found “no evidence [Hines] [f]iled a formal grievance.” Doc. 25 at 7. Hines disagrees with the Court's conclusion that this means that she failed to exhaust. Hines argues:

As I explain in every one of my complaints, after not getting a response, I assume after more than 30 days of no answer my grievance was rejected or denied, so I appealed still no answer. The district court erred in finding Plaintiff Hines did not comply with G.D.C. grievance policy because she fail to appeal. It was undisputed that neither of the grievances had resulted in a decision by the warden.

Id. at 7. Hines goes on to argue that no grievance appeal is required when prison officials do not respond to a grievance. Of course, these arguments miss the point of the Court's reasoning in the First Nazaire Order-that the then-applicable three-step grievance process required a formal grievance, and it does not appear that Hines filed such a formal grievance. See Doc. 55 at 4.[3] Accordingly, the Court's reasoning in the First Nazaire Order applies with full force here. Moreover, Hines is clearly collaterally estopped from relitigating these arguments. Cf. Hamze v. Cummings, 652 F. App'x 876, 879 (11th Cir. 2016) (“[T]he district court did not err in applying collateral estoppel to conclude that [42 U.S.C. § 1983 plaintiff] failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to these claims.”); see also Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 879 (11th Cir. 2003) (applying collateral estoppel in § 1983 suit).[4]

         Hines asserts arguments not addressed in First Nazaire Order, the most salient of which rely on an alleged settlement offer from the prison system. See Docs. 27 at 11-13; 30 at 2-6 (reasserting that the settlement letter evidences exhaustion and reasserting that “Nurse Rogers, ” the administrator who allegedly signed the settlement letter, retaliated against her by destroying her grievance); see also 5:14-cv-147, ECF Doc. 87 at 12 (settlement offer letter). But Hines is estopped from asserting these arguments because she previously raised these arguments in her attempt to avoid an adverse exhaustion ruling on her related claims in 5:14-cv-147 against Nazaire's hiring superior, Dr. Billy Nichols, and Georgia Correctional Healthcare (GCH). See 5:14-cv-147, ECF Docs. 87, 93, 94, 96, 98, 99. The Court rejected her arguments there, and found the settlement letter to be a forgery. Id., ECF Doc. 101 at 4-5. She is accordingly collaterally estopped from reasserting these arguments here.[5] Cf. Hamze, 652 F. App'x at 879 (“Collateral estoppel . . . is not limited to parties and their privies. A defendant who was not a party to the original action may invoke collateral estoppel against the plaintiff.” (quoting Hart v. Yamaha-Parts Distribs., Inc., 787 F.2d 1468, 1473 (11th Cir. 1986))).

         In any event, the Court remains convinced that the settlement letter is a forgery for the reasons it gave in the order dismissing Nichols and GCH.[6] And, as in that order, the Court does not find Hines's related assertions of misconduct by Nurse Rogers to be credible. Hines had every opportunity to introduce credible evidence of the formal grievance that she claims to have submitted and claimed to have a receipt for. See 5:14-cv-147, ECF Doc. 55 at 5. But she has still failed to do so. Rather, she has introduces red herrings, offers contradictory and vague explanations, rehashes old arguments previously rejected by the Court, or complains about the Court's past decisions. See, e.g., Docs. 25 at 11-13; 27 at 8-11; 30 at 5-6. The Court remains unpersuaded. Hines has failed to demonstrate that she exhausted her administrative remedies.

         In conclusion, the Recommendation (Doc. 29) is ADOPTED as amended by this Order, Nazaire's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 83) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is GRANTED, and Hines's Recast Complaint (Doc. 6) is DISMISSED without prejudice.[7]

         SO ...


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