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Ward v. Sauvey

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 19, 2018

QUENTIN C. WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. SAUVEY, JEAN LUTSEY, NURSE UTTOR, NURSE ALSTON, and NURSE LEMONS, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Quentin C. Ward, a prisoner at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, alleges that prison officials are not giving him his prescribed medication for severe nerve pain in his back and that they failed to treat painful lumps in his scrotum. Several motions are before the court.

         A. Exhaustion

         Ward brings three sets of claims: (1) defendants Jean Lutsey and Dr. Sauvey will not provide him with methadone previously prescribed for his severe nerve pain in his back; (2) defendant nurses Uttor, Alston, and Lemons of the Special Needs Committee will not provide him with this medication; and (3) defendant Sauvey failed to treat painful lumps on his scrotum. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that Ward failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his claims. Dkt. 24.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions . . . until such administrative remedies are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement is mandatory and “applies to all inmate suits.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). The exhaustion requirement's primary purpose is to “alert[ ] the state” to the problem “and invit[e] corrective action.” Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521, 524 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Section 1997e(a) requires “proper exhaustion, ” Woodford, 548 U.S. at 93; Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002), which means that the prisoner must follow prison rules when filing the initial grievance and all necessary appeals, “in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require.” Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005). “[A] prisoner who does not properly take each step within the administrative process has failed to exhaust state remedies.” Pozo, 286 F.3d at 1024. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections uses a four-step process called the Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS) to review inmate grievances. See Wis. Admin. Code Ch. DOC 310.

         Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, defendants bear the burden of establishing that Ward failed to exhaust his available remedies. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). At the summary judgment stage, they must show that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         Defendants admit that Ward properly exhausted his claim that defendants Lutsey and Sauvey will not give him methadone. But they contend that Ward failed to fully exhaust a 2013 grievance about the Special Needs Committee defendants, and that he never filed a grievance about the treatment of his scrotal lumps.

         First, for the Special Needs Committee defendants, the state produces a 2013 grievance by Ward (No. GBCI-2013-16956) in which he mentions that a non-defendant doctor told him that the “committee” denied him methadone, so “there's nothing [the doctor] can do about that.” Dkt. 26-2, at 6. The state construes this grievance as one about the committee, although it contains more broad allegations about his overall pain-medication treatment by GBCI medical staff in general. It is undisputed that Ward failed to fully exhaust this grievance. But it is unclear why the failure to exhaust this particular grievance means that Ward did not exhaust any grievance about the committee. If their point is that it is the only grievance that mentions the committee by name, that is not a requirement.

         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). The ICRS rules do not provide strict pleading rules for the substance of grievances; they state only that a grievance must “clearly identify the issue.” Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.09(1)(e). Where administrative rules are silent, “a grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the nature of the wrong for which redress is sought.” Strong, 297 F.3d 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.

         I take Ward's asserted shortcoming here to be that GBCI's medical staff will not provide him with adequate pain treatment for his nerve pain. The state concedes that Ward has exhausted his pain-medication claim against defendants Lutsey and Sauvey, but they do not explain which grievance accomplished that exhaustion, and why that grievance does not also serve to exhaust claims against the nurses on the Special Needs Committee. Without seeing that grievance, and given that inmate grievances unusually need not name individual defendants, it is difficult to see how I can parse the exhaustion of the claims against Lutsey and Sauvey from the claims against the committee nurses.

         For his part, Ward says that he exhausted the claims against the nurses through grievance no. GBCI-2015-8128, in which he complained that “HSU personnel refused to provide pain management medication” regarding his nerve pain. Dkt. 31-1, at 1-2. That grievance was fully exhausted. In its reply, the state does not address the '8128 grievance at all, instead saying only that Ward failed to exhaust the 2013 grievance. This further confuses things, because the state does not explain whether the '8128 grievance is the one they consider to have exhausted Ward's claims against Lutsey and Sauvey. If it is, they do not grapple with the rule that Ward need not name each defendant in the grievance. If it is not, they do not explain what grievance they consider to have exhausted Ward's claims against Lutsey and Sauvey, and why that grievance does not also exhaust the claims against the nurses. It's the state's burden to provide a lack of exhaustion and they have failed to do so here. So I will deny defendants' motion for summary judgment on the claims against the nurses.

         As for Ward's claim about the lack of treatment for his scrotal lumps, defendants say that Ward did not file any grievance about this problem. Ward produces three grievances in his response, but he admits that he failed to exhaust one of them (GBCI-2016-8740, Dkt. 31-2). The other two (the '8128 grievance and no. GBCI-2016-12554, Dkt. 31-3) do not exhaust his claims either.

         Ward says these two grievances exhaust his scrotal-lump claim because in those grievances he complained about a lack of pain-management treatment, and the DOC rules do not specifically tell a prisoner that a grievance must detail exactly where his pain is coming from. But, as stated above, the rules do say that a prisoner must “clearly identify the issue” and case law makes clear that the prisoner must “alert[] the prison to the nature of the wrong.” The '8128 grievance is clearly geared toward Ward's nerve pain in his neck, arms, and back. ...


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