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David Steece v. Corrections Corporation of America

March 8, 2012

DAVID STEECE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION; CCA WESTERN PROPERTIES, INC., AN IDAHO CORPORATION; PHILIP VALDEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-8, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: U. S. District Judge Honorable Edward J. Lodge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Currently before the Court in this prisoner civil rights matter is Defendants' Amended Motion To Dismiss. (Dkt. 14.) Plaintiff has responded to the Amended Motion (Dkt. 16), Defendants have submitted a Reply (Dkt. 17), and the matter is now ripe.*fn1

The Court finds that decisional process would not be aided by oral argument, and it will resolve this matter after consideration of the parties' written briefing. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Amended Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), which is a prison that is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under a contract with the state of Idaho. (Dkt. 1.)

Plaintiff alleges that ICC officials failed to protect him from two serious assaults by rival gang members in 2010. Plaintiff was first assaulted on March 10, 2010, while he was exercising in a recreation room. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Afterward, prison staff moved Plaintiff to a segregated housing unit on a different pod. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that correctional officers were aware that rival gang members also resided on the same pod, but they did not offer to transfer him to another housing area. (Id. at 14.)

On August 10, 2010, the door to Plaintiff's cell was apparently unlocked remotely in the central control room, and it popped open. (Id. at 14.) According to Plaintiff, numerous prisoners then rushed into his cell and begin beating him, causing him to go in and out of consciousness. (Id.) Correctional officers came into the cell and sprayed Plaintiff and the other combatants with mace. (Id.) Plaintiff later received a disciplinary offense report (DOR) based on allegations that he had engaged in mutual combat. (Id.)

Plaintiff contends that ICC staff contributed to or failed to prevent these assaults and that he suffered serious and permanent injuries. (Id.) He claims that the assaults were part of a larger pattern or practice of deliberate indifference to inmate safety at ICC. (Id. at ¶ 11, a-g.)

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges five causes of action: two counts of negligence under state law (for the failure to protect him from harm and the failure to provide adequate medical care); two counts of gross negligence/recklessness under state law, based on willful, wanton, or reckless conduct (for the failure to protect him from harm and the failure to provide adequate medical care); and one count arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he alleges that prison officials "have enacted, pursued, acquiesced in, and/or implemented policies and practices" that violated his Eighth Amendment rights. (Dkt. 1, pp. 7-12.)

Defendants have filed a Amended Motion to Dismiss portions of the Complaint on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust the prison's administrative review process as to certain claims before beginning this action. (Dkt. 14.) The matter is fully briefed, and the Court is now prepared to issue its ruling

STANDARD OF LAW

1. The Exhaustion Requirement

Because Plaintiff has raised one federal claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and four related state law causes of action, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss implicates the exhaustion requirements of both state and federal law.

Specifically, the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires pre-complaint exhaustion of administrative remedies for allfederal claims brought by state prisoners who challenge the conditions of their confinement: "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other federal law, until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). "There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). This requirement is intended to give "prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court." Id. at 204.

Under the PLRA, proper exhaustion is also required, meaning that "a prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006). "The level of detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance procedures will vary from system to system and claim to claim, but it is the ...


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