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Harris v. Daniel

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

June 10, 2019

JEROME KENDRELL HARRIS # 203772 PLAINTIFF
v.
MAJOR T. DANIEL, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael T. Parker United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion [48] for Summary Judgment. Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion [48] for Summary Judgment should be granted in part and denied in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a post-conviction inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), filed this civil rights lawsuit on April 23, 2018. At the time of the underlying incident, Plaintiff was housed at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility (“WCCF”), a private prison run by Management & Training Corporation (“MTC”). An omnibus hearing was held in this matter on January 24, 2019, and Plaintiff clarified his claims.

         According to Plaintiff, he was housed on the long-term segregation unit, and on this unit it is required that inmates be placed in restraints before going to the showers. On January 10, 2018, however, Defendant Chantel Woods allegedly escorted inmate Marcus Brafield, who was not restrained, out of the showers. Brafield allegedly took keys from Defendant Woods and told her and the other officers in the zone to leave. According to Plaintiff, the officers complied with Brafield's order and left the zone. Brafield used the keys to release three other inmates from their cells. Thereafter, the inmates opened Plaintiff's cell and attacked him.

         According to Plaintiff, he was able to escape his cell, but the inmates pursued and continued their attack. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Woods, along with Defendants Justin Green and Terry Daniel, watched the assault through a glass door but did not attempt to stop the inmates. Plaintiff was taken to University of Mississippi Medical Center following the attack. Plaintiff alleges that because of the attack, he lost his right eye and a tooth.

         Plaintiff testified that he believes Defendant Woods knew Brafield planned to attack him and allowed the attack to occur. He believes this because Brafield was allowed to go to the showers unrestrained and because Defendant Woods knew Brafield and Plaintiff had prior arguments.

         On February 19, 2019, the Court appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff. On April 8, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion [48] for Summary Judgment arguing that Plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Plaintiff responded on April 26, 2018 and Defendants replied on May 7, 2019.

         ANALYSIS

         “[S]ummary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admission on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004). If the moving party meets its burden, the “nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         Summary judgment is proper “where a party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which he bears the burden of proof.” Washington v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 839 F.2d 1121, 1122 (5th Cir. 1988). In the absence of proof, the Court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted). “It is improper for the district court to ‘resolve factual disputes by weighing conflicting evidence, … since it is the province of the jury to assess the probative value of the evidence.'” McDonald v. Entergy Operations, Inc., 2005 WL 2474701, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Apr. 29, 2005) (quoting Kennett-Murray Corp. v. Bone, 622 F.2d 887, 892 (5th Cir. 1980)).

         Failure to Exhaust

         The thrust of Defendants' argument is that Plaintiff did not complete the administrative remedy process (“ARP”) in place[1] at WCCF before filing a lawsuit relating to the alleged incident. Plaintiff disputes this argument and points to a grievance filed on January 27, 2018 where he stated that the medical staff was denying his eye drops, he wanted justice, and he sought access to the inmate legal assistance program and a § 1983 form. Mot. [48], Ex. B at 45-46. An ARP investigator responded to this grievance with a letter stating that each grievance should only contain one complaint or request and grievances containing multiple requests would be rejected. Id. Plaintiff argues that this grievance was enough to start the process and the letter he received in response on January 30, 2018 was not clear and the record does not show he ever received the letter.

         The sufficiency of an administrative grievance is defined by each prison's own grievance process. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). Defendants submit that the grievance process is found in the MDOC Inmate Handbook which states that the grievance should be brief but should also include all the facts necessary to understand the ...


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