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Osborne v. Meisner

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 12, 2018



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

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Redgranite Correctional Institution, filed a pro se complaint claiming his civil rights were violated. See (Docket #21). Before the Court are two motions from Plaintiff. The first requests reconsideration of the Court's recent order granting partial summary judgment to Defendants. (Docket #50). The second is Plaintiff's fourth motion requesting the appointment of counsel. (Docket #55). The Court will deny both motions.

         1. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

         Plaintiff filed a motion on January 4, 2018 asking that the Court reconsider its December 27, 2017 order granting partial summary judgment to Defendants. (Docket #45). In that order, the Court found that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his prison administrative remedies with respect to his claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Id. at 5- 6. His initial inmate complaint, filed around the time of the relevant events in 2016, did not raise the issue of allegedly inadequate medical care, id. at 4-5, and while a subsequent inmate complaint in late 2017 did mention medical care, it was rejected because it was submitted nearly a year outside the permissible time period, id. at 6. As a result, the medical deliberate indifference claim had to be dismissed. Id.; Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002); Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 452 (7th Cir. 2001).

         Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of that order, arguing that his 2016 inmate complaint, considered alongside his contemporaneous healthcare requests and other actions, put Defendants on notice of his medical claim. (Docket #50 at 2). Although he cites no authority supporting his motion, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) permits a court to revisit orders in civil cases. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). That Rule allows the Court to vacate an order based on, inter alia, a mistake, newly discovered evidence, or “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Relief under Rule 60 is an “extraordinary remedy and is granted only in exceptional circumstances.” Wickens v. Shell Oil Co., 620 F.3d 747, 759 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court's determination is constrained only by its sound discretion. Venson v. Altamirano, 749 F.3d 641, 656 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Rule 60(b) affords Plaintiff no relief here. First, and most importantly, Plaintiff's argument is one he made in opposition to Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. See (Docket #38 at 3); (Docket #47 at 2). The Court considered and rejected it, finding that the September 2016 inmate complaint and Plaintiff's appeal thereof raised issues only regarding the conditions of Plaintiff's cell, not improper medical care. (Docket #45 at 5-6). A motion for reconsideration is not to be used as a second bite at the apple. See Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). For that reason alone, the Court declines to revisit its prior ruling.

         To be sure, were it to reach the merits, the Court would find Plaintiff's argument no more persuasive now than it was when first offered. As the Court previously explained, the inmate complaint in question stated, in pertinent part:

I am sleeping on the floor in seg[.] . . . On 9-21-16 I was told by C/O II to pack my stuff from D-wing that I was moving to C-wing and going to have a cellie. Since [I]'ve moved in C-6 I've been sleeping on the floor and I have bug bites all over me[.] I've told the C/O's and got the response to[o] bad we're over crowded. The rooms in seg are set up for one person not two people. My mat[t]ress is on the floor on top the shower drain and is right next to the toilet. Thank you for your time in this matter.

(Docket #35-2 at 11). In the “action requested” section, Plaintiff said: “[e]ither to be on the slab of concrete provided to us while in seg or to just be in a cell me[a]nt for one person and only one person not two. Or let me into [general population].” Id. at 12. After his complaint was dismissed, Plaintiff appealed, arguing that

On 9-22-16 I was forced out of D-wing RHU to C-wing RHU due to work being done but was forced to double up in a single cell and had to sleep on the floor on top [of] a shower drain next to a toilet 2 feet from on a flat single mattress not even 6 inch off the ground and no accommodation. I spent 2 weeks in this inhuman and unsanitary state and notif[i]ed all possibil[ities] about this issue and was denied/dismissed on my ICRS complaint and got denied of all request to move cells[.]

Id. at 13. The dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

         Plaintiff argues that he adequately notified prison officials of his lack of medical care for purposes of exhaustion. He reasons that first, prior to submitting his 2016 complaint, he warned several prison officials verbally, in health services requests, and by letter of the bug bites he received as a result of sleeping next to the floor drain, as well as the body-covering rashes that the bites caused. (Docket #50 at 2, 6). Next, Plaintiff contends that his inmate complaint and appeal highlighted the medical aspect of his concerns, as he mentioned both bug bites occurring all over his body and, on appeal, that he was living in an “unsanitary state.” (Docket #35-2 at 11-13); (Docket #50 at 2-3, 6-7). Thus, prison officials, reflecting on his pre-complaint warnings together with his inmate complaint, should have concluded that he was in need of medical care. (Docket #50 at 3).

         Plaintiff's argument is about the scope of his inmate complaint, and the Seventh Circuit has offered guidance on this question. To adequately notify prison officials of a particular claim, an inmate's complaint must contain the information required by the prison's administrative rules. Strong v. David, 297 F.3d 646, 649 (7th Cir. 2002). Where those rules are silent, “a grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the nature of the wrong for which redress is sought.” Id. at 650; Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521, 524 (7th Cir. 2004). An inmate need not state “facts, articulate legal theories, or demand particular relief, ” nor must he name each potential defendant, so long as the grievance “object[s] intelligibly to some asserted shortcoming.” Strong, 297 F.3d at 650; Riccardo, 375 F.3d at 524. In this way, the approach to interpreting inmate complaints is akin to the federal notice pleading system. Dye v. Kingston, 130 Fed.Appx. 52, 55 (7th Cir. 2005). Wisconsin's administrative rules provide little guidance as to the required contents of an inmate complaint; however, those rules do require that offender complaints “[c]ontain only one issue per complaint, and [] clearly identify the issue.” Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.09(1)(e).

         Plaintiff's complaint falls short of satisfying these lenient standards. At the outset, the Court rejects Plaintiff's contention that prison officials are required to interpret inmate complaints using other knowledge they might have, from whatever source. As the Court made clear in its summary judgment order, Plaintiff's verbal complaints, health services requests, and other notification efforts, however robust, have no bearing whatsoever on the scope of his inmate complaint. (Docket ...

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