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Liddell v. Garcia

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 27, 2017



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Anthony Liddell, Jr. (“Liddell”), formerly an inmate incarcerated at the Racine County Jail (“RCJ”), brought this action against Officer Chris Garcia (“Garcia”), Officer Brian Genike (“Genike”), and Sergeant Anthony LaCombe (“LaCombe”), alleging that the defendants imposed conditions during his confinement at RCJ that violated his civil rights.[1] Specifically, Liddell alleges that he was housed in a cell with cracked masonry bricks and, as a result, the temperature in his cell dipped to 20 or 30 degrees and he suffered numbness and pain from the cold. Liddell claims he advised the defendants of these conditions, and that Genike conceded the jail's cells were in disrepair, but that nothing was done to abate the issue.

         On May 1, 2017, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #39). Liddell was required to respond to the defendants' motion within twenty-one days, and he did not. See (Docket #34).[2] The motion will be addressed in its unopposed form and, for the reasons explained below, it will be granted and this action will be dismissed without prejudice.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses; the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         Because Liddell failed to respond to the defendants' statement of facts, the Court will consider them undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The relevant facts are as follows. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Liddell was an inmate at RCJ. (Docket #40 ¶ 1). The defendants were, presumably, employees of RCJ-Garcia and Genike correctional officers and LaCombe a sergeant-though the defendants' filings in support of their motion do not expressly indicate as much.

         The RCJ Inmate Handbook (“Handbook”) prescribes the procedure an inmate must follow to bring complaints to the jail's attention. Id. ¶ 2. The Handbook provides that when an inmate has a basis for a complaint, and informal resolution is not possible, the inmate is to submit an Inmate Request form detailing his complaint to jail supervisory staff. Id. A response or resolution is provided for each legitimate complaint. Id. ¶ 5. An inmate may appeal a grievance response by submitting a written appeal to the Jail Administrator within fifteen days using the same Inmate Request form. Id. ¶ 6.

         Liddell filed numerous inmate requests and complaints during his incarceration at RCJ from October 2015 to May 2016. Id. ¶ 8. Many relate to his medical needs, and others relate to requests for supplies or for copies of his trust account statement. See (Docket #42-9). For example, on April 4, 2016, Liddell filed an inmate complaint referencing various medical needs, including numbness in his fingers due to nerve damage from arthritis. (Docket #40 ¶ 12). On April 8, 2016, Liddell filed an inmate complaint again referencing his arthritis and indicating that the “rain/snow/20-30 degree” temperatures of that season were not good for his “old…bones.” Id. ¶ 13; (Docket #42-9 at 38). In neither of these grievances-or any of Liddell's grievances-did Liddell mention deficiencies in the condition of his cell. (Docket #40 ¶ 11-13). Although Liddell claims he directed relevant inmate grievances regarding his cell conditions to the “maintenance department, ” the defendants deny the same and Liddell did not produce those grievances in discovery. Id. ¶ 14-15. He also lost his best opportunity to bring those to the Court's attention-filing a response to the defendants' motion. Liddell did not appeal any of the grievances he submitted at RCJ. Id. ¶ 16.

         4. ANALYSIS

         The defendants move for summary judgment on two grounds. First, they argue that Liddell failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. (Docket #41 at 5-7). Second, they argue that Liddell is not entitled to relief on his claim related to the conditions of his confinement because he did not suffer a sufficiently serious injury and, further, the defendants did not know of and disregard an injury-causing risk. Id. at 7-9. The Court must address the question of exhaustion first, because “[a] suit filed by a prisoner before administrative remedies have been exhausted must be dismissed; the district court lacks discretion to resolve the claim on the merits[.]” Perez v. Wis. Dep't of Corr., 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999).

         4.1 Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) establishes that, prior to filing a lawsuit complaining about prison conditions, a prisoner must exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To do so, the prisoner must “file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require, ” and he must do so precisely in accordance with those rules; substantial compliance does not satisfy the PLRA. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002); Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 452 (7th Cir. ...

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