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McGuire v. White

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

September 3, 2019

DAVID L. MCGUIRE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BRAD WHITE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE

         United States Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles recommends (1) granting Defendants Brad White, Leslie Holmes, and Ron Buchanan's (collectively, “the Defendants”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff David McGuire's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs (Doc. 27) and (2) denying McGuire's motion to have access to the library (Doc. 24).[1] Doc. 31. The Magistrate Judge dismissed McGuire's claim because McGuire, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not specifically stating in his prison grievances that he needed a different type of insulin. Id. McGuire has not objected to the Recommendation. The Court has reviewed the Recommendation for clear error pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72. For the following reasons, the Recommendation (Doc. 31) is ADOPTED as modified.

         I. BACKGROUND [2]

         McGuire has brought Eighth Amendment claims against the Defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Doc. 14. Specifically, he alleges that the medical staff at the Lamar County Detention Center (“LCDC”) changed his insulin for his diabetes, and as a result, he suffered from irregular blood sugars. Id. at 2. Specifically, McGuire alleges co-Defendant Dr. Worbel changed his insulin to one that was cheaper. Id. His injuries included “anxiety, chills, difficulty with thinking, dizziness, drowsiness, excessive hunger, headache, fast heartbeat, nausea, nervousness, [and] tingling in hands, feet, lips, and tongue” caused by his irregular blood sugars. Id. McGuire states that “Buchanan, White, [and] Holmes were aware of the problems I was having with Dr. Worbel and his staff because I wrote grievances to all of them about Dr. Worbel's inadequate healthcare.” Id. at 3. The Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss McGuire's claims for (1) failing to exhaust his administrative remedies and (2) failing to allege these Defendants caused a physical injury, as required by the PLRA.[3]Doc. 27. The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing McGuire's claims for failing to exhaust his administrative remedies.

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Failure to Exhaust

         The Defendants first argue that McGuire's complaint should be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Doc. 27-2 at 5. Specifically, they argue that McGuire (1) did not “fully describe the factual basis and circumstances of the alleged incident or situation” in his grievance as required by LCDC's grievance procedure; (2) did not name the Defendants in his grievance to put them on notice; and (3) did not complete the grievance appeals process. Id. at 5-8. The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing McGuire's claims against the Defendants based on the first argument alone because McGuire's filed grievances did not “include a specific complaint” as required by LCDC's grievance procedure. Doc. 31 at 4-7.

         The PLRA requires prisoners to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). When a state jail provides a grievance procedure, as LCDC does here, an inmate “alleging harm suffered from prison conditions must file a grievance and exhaust the remedies available under that procedure before pursuing a § 1983 lawsuit.” Johnson v. Meadows, 418 F.3d 1152, 1156 (11th Cir. 2005) (quotation marks and citation omitted). To properly exhaust, an inmate must use all available remedies and comply with procedural rules and deadlines of the applicable state grievance system. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006); Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1378 (11th Cir. 2008). Defendants bear the burden of proving that the prisoner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir. 2008). Unexhausted claims must be dismissed.[4] Harper v. Jenkin, 179 F.3d 1311, 1312 (11th Cir. 1999).

         “[D]eciding a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a two-step process.” Id. Courts first look to the defendant's factual allegations in the motion to dismiss and the plaintiff's factual allegations in his response. Id. If those facts conflict, the court should take the plaintiff's version of the facts as true, and if the defendant is entitled to dismissal based on those facts, then the complaint should be dismissed. Id. If the defendant is not entitled to dismissal based on those facts, then the defendant bears the burden of proof in establishing facts that entitle the defendant to dismissal. Id. “In deciding a motion to dismiss for a failure to exhaust nonjudicial remedies, the court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact.” Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1374 (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         McGuire's and the Defendants' versions of the facts regarding what is stated in the grievances do not conflict. See generally Docs. 27-2; 30. Rather, the Defendants argue that McGuire's grievances do not “fully describe the factual basis and circumstances of the alleged incident or situation” as required by LCDC's grievance procedure because his grievances do not specifically say that he needed a different type of diabetes medication. Docs. 27-1 at 10; 27-2 at 5-6. Instead, McGuire's grievances state that his “diabetic neuropathy is not getting better, ” the medical staff was “not doing anything about [his poor condition], ” he felt “weak” and “light headed” due to his poor diet, and he had low blood sugars. Doc. 27-1 at 12-16, 19-21, 23.

         The Defendants' argument is unconvincing. Although “[t]he level of detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance procedures will vary from system to system and claim to claim, ” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007), a plaintiff is not required to provide that level of detail when complaining about medical treatment. Prisoners are not medical experts, and they need not diagnose or prescribe their medical issue in the grievances they file.

         The Defendants also argue that McGuire's grievances “did nothing to alert the Sheriff's Office to the Plaintiff's contentions about misconduct by Defendant White, Holmes or Buchanan.” Doc. 27-2 at 6-7. Specifically, the Defendants argue that McGuire's grievances should have listed the names of the Defendants. Id. That argument is without merit. As stated by the Magistrate Judge, a grievance is sufficient so long as it alerts jail officials of the problem and gives them an opportunity to resolve it, but a prisoner need not “name any particular defendant in a grievance to properly exhaust his claim.” Doc. 31 at 6 (citing Parzyck v. Prison Health Servs. Inc., 627 F.3d 1215, 1218-19 (11th Cir. 2010)).

         The Defendants' third argument regarding McGuire's failure to appeal his grievances does, however, raise a conflict. “[I]t is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 218. The Defendants argue, without citing any evidence, that McGuire filed only one appeal of his grievances relating to his diabetes. Doc. 27-2 at 7. However, McGuire states in his response to the Defendants' motion that he completed the appeals process. Doc. 30.

         The affidavit of Defendant Buchanan, who is LCDC's record custodian, states only the grievances filed by McGuire are attached; it does not state that McGuire did not file any appeals. Doc. 27-1 at 2-3. Furthermore, Buchanan's affidavit and the attached inmate handbook do not state whether inmates can appeal denials of their grievances or how the appeals process is completed. Id. at 1-3, 5-10. As previously discussed, the Defendants bear the burden of proof in establishing facts entitling them to dismissal. Turner, 541 F.3d at 1082. Thus, the Court must accept McGuire's version of the facts relating to his completion of the appeals process as true because the Defendants have not established that McGuire ...


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