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Chappell v. Perry

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

February 14, 2018




         Before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment [78] for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies filed by Defendant Dr. William C. Touchstone and the Motion for Summary Judgment [79] for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies filed by Defendant Kathleen Hogue, in this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, Dwayne V. Chappell, has filed a response [89] to the motion [79]. The Court held an Omnibus Hearing in this matter, at which time the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, and the District Judge subsequently entered an Order of Reference. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Chappell is proceeding in this matter in forma pauperis and pro se. For the reasons explained in this opinion, the Court finds that both motions should be denied.

         I. CLAIMS

         Chappell alleges that his constitutional right to adequate medical treatment was violated while he was incarcerated at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (“WGCF”) and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (“CMCF”) in 2015 and 2016. After being referred to outside specialists, Plaintiff was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in March 2016. [10] at 2; [18]. Chappell underwent surgery in April 2016, followed by radiation treatments in May and June 2016. [16]. Since that time, Chappell has been released from custody.

         Plaintiff has brought this action against two employees of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), Dr. Gloria Perry and Captain Denise Bone. He has also alleged claims against Centurion of Mississippi, LLC (“Centurion”), as well as Dr. William C. Touchstone, Kathleen S. Hogue, Dr. Lawrence Sutton, and Jennifer W. Green. In sum, Chappell alleges that Defendants misdiagnosed him and delayed medical treatment for him beginning in April 2015, when he was transferred to WGCF from another facility in the MDOC system. His claims against Defendants Touchstone, Hogue, and Sutton relate to his medical care while he was in custody at WGCF and until he was transferred to CMCF on March 30, 2016. His claims against Defendant Green stem from his medical care after he was incarcerated at CMCF, and his claims against Defendant Bone are based on his housing during the same time period. [18]. His claims against Defendant Perry relate to the alleged denial and delay of medical care by MDOC in 2015 and 2016.

         Defendants Touchstone and Hogue have filed the present motions for summary judgment, arguing that Chappell failed to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to his claims against them. For the reasons explained below, the Court hereby denies both motions.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, in relevant part, that A[t]he 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). An issue of fact is genuine if the "'evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Lemoine v. New Horizons Ranch and Center, 174 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 1999)(quoting Colston v. Barnhart, 146 F.3d 282, 284 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 119 S.Ct. 618 (1998)). Issues of fact are material if Aresolution of the issues might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Lemoine, 174 F.3d at 633. The Court does not, "however, in the absence of any proof, assume the nonmoving [or opposing] party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)(en banc)(emphasis omitted). Moreover, the non-moving party's burden to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.317, 323 (1986), is not satisfied by "conclusory allegations" or by "unsubstantiated assertions, " or by only a "scintilla" of evidence. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         Statutory law and case law require a prisoner to exhaust administrative remedies, regardless of the relief sought, before bringing a § 1983 action in federal court. The relevant portion of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), states the following:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)(Supp. 2000). In Booth v. Churner, 121 S.Ct. 1819 (2001), the Supreme Court held that 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, revised as a part of the PLRA, requires an inmate to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing an action with respect to prison conditions, regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures. Booth, 121 S.Ct. at 1825. The United States Supreme Court further explained that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is mandatory and applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong. See Porter v. Nussle, 122 S.Ct. 983 (2002); see also Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910 (2007)(reaffirming that exhaustion is mandatory; stating that it is an affirmative defense).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reiterated the principles found in these cases. In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay ' 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies. The Fifth Circuit concluded, as follows:

District courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint. It is irrelevant whether exhaustion is achieved during the federal proceeding. Pre-filing exhaustion is mandatory, and the case must be dismissed if available administrative remedies were not exhausted.

Id. at 788. Moreover, A[i]t is not enough to merely initiate the grievance process or to put prison officials on notice of a complaint; the grievance process must be carried through to its conclusion.@ Walker v. East Miss. Corr. Facility, 2013 WL 4833901 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 11, 2013)(citing Wright v. Hollingsworth, 260 F.3d 357, 358 (5th Cir. 2001)(finding that filing an initial grievance, without more, did not equate to exhaustion)); see also Tompkins v. Holman, 2013 WL 1305580 (S.D.Miss. Mar. 26, 2013)(dismissing ' 1983 complaint for ...

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