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Rosario v. Agler

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 26, 2014

MELVIN DEL ROSARIO, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. AGLER, DR. STANDARD, M.A. THACKER, and ICC MEDICAL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Now pending before the Court is Defendant Dr. Agler's[1] Motion to Dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. (Dkt. 25.) Plaintiff claims Defendant Agler violated the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide Plaintiff with adequate medical treatment and has filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint. (Dkt. 34.)

Having carefully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, the Court will decide this matter on the written motions, briefs and record. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his current claims prior to filing suit, the Court enters the following Order granting Defendant Agler's Motion to Dismiss, denying Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, and dismissing this case without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's claims arose while he was incarcerated at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America under contract with the IDOC.[2] The relevant factual allegations of the Complaint are set forth in the Court's Initial Review Order:

Plaintiff asserts that he has suffered from severe pain since July of 2010, when he fell and injured his back while incarcerated at the ICC. Plaintiff asserts that he had preexisting back problems and was still recovering from a back procedure when the fall occurred. Within the first week of his fall, his back was in so much pain that he could not walk. According to Plaintiff, his requests for pain medication and proper treatment for his injury were repeatedly denied by ICC medical staff. Plaintiff asserts that, because of the inadequate medical care, Plaintiff's spinal cord procedure must be redone and Plaintiff must have another procedure to repair three other discs in his back. Plaintiff alleges that the damage to his back is permanent. He seeks $2, 000, 000 in damages.

(Dkt. 6 at 2) (internal citations omitted).

Plaintiff filed the instant action on June 28, 2012 (mailbox rule). He claims that Defendant Agler violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate prison medical care.[3]

DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO EXHAUST

Defendant Agler argues that Plaintiff's claims of inadequate medical care, including inadequate pain medication, must be dismissed because Plaintiff did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees.

1. Standard of Law for Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, et seq., a prisoner is required to exhaust all of his administrative remedies within the prison system before he can bring a civil rights lawsuit challenging the conditions of his confinement. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). "Proper" exhaustion of administrative remedies is required, meaning that the prisoner must comply "with [the prison's] deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006).

"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). The exhaustion requirement is based on the important policy concern that prison officials should have "an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court." Id. at 204.

Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that is "subject to an unenumerated Rule 12(b) motion rather than a motion for summary judgment." Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003). In the context of such a motion, a court's consideration of evidence outside of the pleadings does not transform the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Rather, in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust, the Court "may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact." Id. at 1120. If a prisoner has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the appropriate remedy is dismissal without prejudice. Id.

The defendant bears the burden of proving failure to exhaust. See Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 936 (9th Cir. 2005). If the defendant does so, "the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that the administrative remedies were unavailable." Albino v. Baca, 697 F.3d 1023, 1031 (9th Cir. 2012). Confusing or contradictory information given to a prisoner "informs [the] determination of whether relief was, as a practical matter, available.'" Brown, 422 F.3d at 937.

Administrative remedies will be deemed unavailable and exhaustion excused if an inmate shows that the required procedural steps were "not known and unknowable with reasonable effort." Albino, 697 F.3d at 1037. A complaint will not be dismissed for failure to exhaust if the prison improperly processed an inmate's grievance, if prison officials misinformed an inmate regarding grievance procedures, or if jail staff took any other "affirmative actions" that interfered with an inmate's efforts to exhaust. Id. at 1034, 1039. It is not enough that the ...


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