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Taylor v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

August 7, 2019

CALEB ANDERSON TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
WTSP OFFICER MARCUS JONES, WTSP SERGEANT BILLY WASHINGTON, and TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff initiated this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for Defendants' alleged excessive force while Plaintiff was in state custody on September 11, 2015. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 55.) The Motion relies solely on Plaintiff's failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies, as mandated by the PLRA, prior to filing suit. The Court held a Hearing on the Motion on June 7, 2019. (ECF No. 88.) During the Hearing, the Court ordered Defendants to produce Plaintiff's medical records for in camera review.[1] Having considered the parties' arguments, the record, and Plaintiff's medical records, the Court finds that there remains a genuine issue of fact as to the availability of the administrative grievance process. Therefore, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Between September 11, 2015, and September 16, 2015, Plaintiff was an inmate with the Tennessee Department of Correction and was housed at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. (ECF Nos. 1 and 56.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 11, 2015, Defendants Marcus Jones and Billy Washington, both WTSP employees, used excessive force in their attempt to subdue Plaintiff in his cell. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's testimony and medical records establish that he was immediately taken to the infirmary because his right arm was injured during the altercation. (ECF No. 91 at 4, 6.) Medical personnel documented that Plaintiff's difficulty moving his arm was consistent with trauma. (Id. at 6, 8.) An x-ray was taken, and Plaintiff was provided with a sling and narcotics to treat his pain. (Id. at 5, 8.)

         While at WTSP, doctors ordered and examined Plaintiff's x-rays and ascertained that Plaintiff suffered from an “acute displaced fracture of distal humeral diaphysis” (Id. at 12), meaning that the bottom portion of Plaintiff's upper-arm bone snapped into two or more pieces. Plaintiff continued to complain of great physical pain, was given narcotics to treat that pain, and experienced difficulty moving his arm. (See Id. at 13-19.) WTSP medical providers requested an orthopedic consultation and surgery evaluation. (Id. at 24.) Pursuant to their requests, the process through which Plaintiff was to be transferred to a special needs facility was undertaken.

         Plaintiff testified that at some point during the five days following the incident- throughout which, he was in and out of the infirmary, under the influence of prescription pain medication, and in great physical discomfort-Plaintiff asked Corporal Jones (different than Defendant Jones) for assistance with writing and filing a grievance. (ECF No. 88.) According to Plaintiff, Jones refused to help, stating that he (1) did not have time and (2) had to wait until all of the transferring process was complete. (Id.) Plaintiff also testified that he asked fellow inmates for assistance with writing the grievance, but they refused. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that during this time, his arm injury rendered him physically unable to write a grievance. (Id.; ECF Nos. 61, 67, and 72.) Plaintiff was then transferred to Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility (“DSNF”) in Nashville, Tennessee, where Plaintiff was scheduled to have an orthopedic consultation. (ECF No. 88; ECF No. 91 at 32.)

         Plaintiff arrived to DSNF on September 16, 2015, five days after he was injured. (ECF No. 88; ECF No. 91 at 33.) Plaintiff testified that his priority at DSNF was treatment for his arm. (ECF No. 88.) Over the next three-and-a-half weeks, Plaintiff's healing was monitored as medical personnel discussed the treatment plan and likelihood of surgery. (ECF No. 91 at 35-55.) Plaintiff's records at DSNF indicate that Plaintiff consistently attributed his injury to an altercation with correctional officers. (See, e.g., id. at 36.) Medical personnel documented Plaintiff's persistent severe pain, narcotic pain treatment, and sling utilization. (Id. at 36, 40, 44, and 53.) Ultimately, it was determined that Plaintiff's arm was not healing properly, and surgery was recommended. (Id. at 47, 51.)

         Plaintiff testified that during the first week of October, he spoke with a DSNF internal affairs officer about the possibility of filing a grievance related to the September 11, 2015, incident. (ECF No. 88.) The officer advised Plaintiff to file. (Id.) Thus, on October 6, 2015, while still at DSNF, Plaintiff-his arm now healed enough to allow him to write-filed a grievance against Defendants. (Id.; ECF No. 56.) The grievance was denied on October 12, 2015, as “Inappropriate - Non-grievable” because it was filed “past 7 days of occurance [sic].” (ECF No. 1-4 at 4.) Plaintiff testified that the grievance's denial precluded him from having an opportunity to be heard. (ECF No. 88.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed this suit on the basis of Defendants' excessive force, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants now contend that they are entitled to summary judgment solely because Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. (ECF Nos. 55 and 56.) In opposition, Plaintiff asks the Court to consider his inability to file. (ECF Nos. 61, 67, 72, and 88.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). The critical question here is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

         “The moving party has the initial burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the court must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Stansberry v. Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp., 651 F.3d 482, 486 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted). “Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmovant must ‘designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Kimble v. Wasylyshyn, 439 Fed.Appx. 492, 495-96 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (requiring a party maintaining that a fact is genuinely disputed to “cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record”). “The nonmovant must, however, do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. [T]here must be evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party to create a genuine dispute.” Lee v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cty., 432 Fed.Appx. 435, 441 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citations ...


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