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Nathan J. Mueller v. Corrections Corporation of America

March 9, 2012

NATHAN J. MUELLER, 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: Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Currently before the Court in this prisoner civil rights matter is Defendants' Motion To Dismiss. (Dkt. 9.) Plaintiff has responded to the Motion (Dkt. 15), Defendants have submitted a Reply (Dkt. 16), and the matter is now ripe. The parties have consented to a United States Magistrate Judge conducting all proceedings, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 14.)

The Court finds that the 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, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion, and Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

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

Plaintiff alleges that he was initially a member of a gang at ICC but that he later disassociated himself from the gang. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff contends that ICC staff knew that he would be in substantial danger if he were placed in the same area as members of his former gang. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.) Despite this knowledge, on March 1, 2010, ICC staff failed to prevent gang members from being housed on the same unit as Plaintiff, and he was seriously injured in an assault by two other inmates. (Id.) He claims that the assault was 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 Motion to Dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust the prison's administrative review process as to any current claim before filing his Complaint. (Dkt. 9.) The matter is fully briefed, and the Court is 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 federal and state 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 prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion." Jones, 549 U.S. at 218.

Likewise, Idaho law contains a similar requirement that prisoners must exhaust administrative remedies before ...


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