United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
Alphoncy Dangerfield, a prisoner at the Wisconsin Secure
Program Facility, brings Eighth Amendment and Wisconsin
negligence claims against prison officials for failing to
properly treat his diabetes and hyperglycemia and provide him
with comfort items to relieve the pain he suffers. Defendants
have moved for partial summary judgment, alleging that
Dangerfield failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for
one set of claims. Defendant Kelli Willard West has filed a
motion for judgment on the pleadings concerning the claim
that she ignored Dangerfield's request for a yoga mat.
Dangerfield's claims is that defendants Bonson,
Winkleski, Waterman, Sutter, and Anderson served on the
Special Needs Committee that denied his request for a
mattress even though they knew he suffered pain from his
medical problems and other inmates did receive that
accommodation. Defendants Winkleski, Waterman, Sutter, and
Anderson are represented by the state Department of Justice
and have filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that
Dangerfield failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for
this claim. Dkt. 32. The remaining defendant for this claim,
defendant Bonson, has filed her own parallel motion for
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.
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.
exhaustion is an affirmative defense, defendants bear the
burden of establishing that Dangerfield 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
present Dangerfield's grievance history, showing that he
failed to file any grievances about the defendants'
denial of his request for a mattress. Dangerfield did not
respond to either summary judgment motion. So I will grant
defendants' motions and dismiss this set of claims
without prejudice. Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395,
401 (7th Cir. 2004) (dismissal for failure to exhaust is
always without prejudice). Because this is the only claim
against defendants Bonson, Winkleski, and Sutter, I will
dismiss them from the case.
Judgment on the pleadings
brings an Eighth Amendment claim against defendant Kelli
Willard West, the religious practices coordinator, for
ignoring his complaint about being denied a yoga mat even
though a doctor had recommended he perform yoga. Willard West
has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, saying
that, as the religious practices coordinator, she was not
responsible for provision or withholding of any medical care.
court will grant judgment on the pleadings “[o]nly when
it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any
facts to support a claim for relief and the moving party
demonstrates that there are no material issues of fact to be
resolved.” Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698
(7th Cir. 2007). The court reviews motions for judgment on
the pleadings under the same standard as motions to dismiss
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, although under Rule 12(c) the court considers all
pleadings, not just the complaint. N. Ind. Gun &
Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449,
452 (7th Cir. 1998). “The essence of the motion is not
that the plaintiff has pleaded insufficient facts, it is that
even assuming all of her facts are accurate, she has no legal
claim.” Brown v. Pick 'N Save Food Stores,
138 F.Supp.2d 1133, 1136-37 (E.D. Wis. 2001) (citing
Payton v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Med.
Ctr., 184 F.3d 623, 627 (7th Cir. 1999)).
West states that the prison religious-property policy
(attached to her answer) in place at the time prevented
inmates who were not in the Eastern Religions group from
possessing yoga mats, see Dkt. 24-1, at 5, and so
Dangerfield cannot show that Willard West acted with
deliberate indifference toward him. But the existence of this
policy is not enough to support a motion for judgment on the
pleadings; it does not prove beyond a doubt that Dangerfield
cannot state a claim for relief. In particular, I do not have
to accept the policy language as true merely because it is an
attachment to a pleading. See Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v.
Cover-All of Wisconsin, LLC, No. 13-CV-748-BBC, 2014 WL
2865160, at *3 (W.D. Wis. June 24, 2014) (“Courts do
not robotically assume as true the facts or statements in all
the exhibits attached to a plaintiff's
complaint.”), citing N. Indiana Gun &
Outdoor Shows, 163 F.3d at 455. And in any event, the
claim may boil down to whether the policy was usually
followed, or whether Willard West had any authority to
countermand the policy or request that a medical provider
countermand it. She is free to argue at summary judgment that
Dangerfield's request was outside the scope of her
authority, but that is an argument that will need to be
developed; it cannot be proven by a mere citation to a DOC
policy. Accordingly, I will deny Willard West's motion.