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Goodwin v. Maloney

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 19, 2014

MICHAEL R. GOODWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
LOREEN MALONEY and RHONDA WALTERS, Defendants

For MICHAEL R GOODWIN, Plaintiff: KATHERINE M. GATTI, MCTEAGUE, HIGBEE, CASE, COHEN, WHITNEY & TOKER, P.A., TOPSHAM, ME.

For LOREEN MALONEY, RHONDA WALTERS, Defendants: JASON P. DONOVAN, THOMPSON & BOWIE, LLP, PORTLAND, ME.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION[1]

John C. Nivison, United States Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff Michael R. Goodwin contends that Defendants Loreen Maloney and Rhonda Walters acted with deliberate indifference regarding his serious medical needs while he was a pretrial detainee at the Somerset County Jail.

Defendants Loreen Maloney and Rhonda Walters moved for summary judgment citing in part Plaintiff's alleged failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act.[2] (ECF No. 73.) The Court determined that the record included disputed factual issues as to whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies. The Court, therefore, denied the motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 84.)

Because the Court concluded that disputed factual issues precluded the entry of summary judgment, the Court scheduled an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies.[3]

Findings of Fact

After consideration of the evidence, I find the following facts:[4]

1. From January 29, 2010, through February 5, 2010, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Somerset County Jail. Plaintiff was transferred to the Maine Correctional Center on February 5, 2010.

2. For the time during which Plaintiff was an inmate, the Somerset County Jail maintained a written policy that governed inmate grievances (the grievance policy).

3. The grievance policy is explained in the Somerset County Jail Handbook that is provided to each inmate.

4. Plaintiff acknowledged receipt of a copy of the handbook on January 31, 2010. Plaintiff also acknowledged receipt of the handbook on two other occasions when he was incarcerated at the Somerset County Jail in 2009.

5. Plaintiff filed a grievance in 2009 on a matter that is unrelated to the subject matter of this action. Personnel at the Somerset County Jail responded to the grievance the day after Plaintiff filed the grievance.

6. Plaintiff was aware of the grievance policy when he was an inmate in 2010. Plaintiff also knew that he had to exhaust the grievance procedure before he could commence a civil action based on any conduct that is properly the subject of a grievance.

7. Plaintiff asserts that he submitted a grievance form dated February 4, 2010. Plaintiff contends that in the grievance, he complained about the medical treatment that he received in January-February 2010. Plaintiff's complaint about the medical treatment is the subject of this action.

8. The Somerset County Jail maintains a log of each grievance that is filed by inmates. When a grievance is filed, the grievance is typically logged into the Jail's computer system the following day.

9. The Somerset County Jail has no record of Plaintiff filing a grievance in February 2010 or anytime thereafter regarding the subject matter of this action.

10. Medpro Associates, the medical provider at the Somerset County Jail, has no record of Plaintiff filing a grievance in February 2010 or anytime thereafter regarding the subject matter of this action.

11. Plaintiff asserts that on two occasions (February 11, 2010, and April 16, 2010), he wrote to Phillip Campbell, a corrections officer at the Somerset County Jail, to inquire about the status of his grievance.[5]

12. Mr. Campbell never received the letters.

13. The Somerset County Jail has no record of receiving the letters.

14. In the letter dated February 11, 2010, Plaintiff asserts in part, " I filled out a grievance, dated 2/4/10 ..." On the original draft, Plaintiff identified the date as " 2/4/12, " but changed the " 12" to " 10" and initialed the change.

Discussion

Failure to exhaust under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) is an affirmative defense that " must be raised and proved by the defense, " Cruz-Berrí os v. Gonzá lez-Rosario, 630 F.3d 7, 11 (1st Cir. 2010), and is subject to proof by a preponderance of the evidence, Palmer v. Flore, 3 F.Supp. 3d 632, 637 (E.D. Mich. 2014). Defendants contend that the evidence establishes that contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, Plaintiff did not file a grievance form and, therefore, Plaintiff has not exhausted the applicable administrative remedies. As explained below, the more credible and persuasive evidence convinces the Court that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies as required prior to commencing this action.

Defendants have demonstrated (1) that the Somerset County Jail had an appropriate grievance procedure in place at the time of Plaintiff's incarceration in 2010; (2) that Plaintiff was knowledgeable of the grievance procedure at the time of his incarceration at the Somerset County Jail in 2010; (3) that the Somerset County Jail typically logs each grievance form the day after it is filed; and (4) that the Somerset County Jail has no record of Plaintiff filing a grievance regarding the subject matter of this action.[6]

Plaintiff maintains that on February 4, 2010, he gave a completed grievance form to a corrections officer.[7] Plaintiff cannot recall the name of the corrections officer. Plaintiff asserts that he received no response to the filing of his grievance.

In support of his contention that he filed a grievance form, Plaintiff relies primarily on two letters that he purportedly sent to Phillip Campbell, a lieutenant at the Somerset County Jail. Plaintiff argues that the letters in which Plaintiff inquires about the status of the grievance that he filed, which letters Plaintiff allegedly wrote in 2010, demonstrate that he in fact commenced the grievance procedure.

Significantly, neither Mr. Campbell, nor the Somerset County Jail, has a record of receiving the letters. Furthermore, Plaintiff's initial reference in the letter dated February 11, 2010, that he filed the grievance in 2012 is revealing. Common sense and logic suggest little likelihood that a person would inadvertently reference a date two years in the future. Particularly given that Plaintiff filed this action in 2012, a more likely and logical explanation for Plaintiff initially writing the date of the filing of the grievance as " 2/4/12" (emphasis supplied) is that he composed the letter in 2012 when he was preparing to file suit and he realized that he had not exhausted the administrative procedure.[8] In other words, a reasonable inference from the evidence is that Plaintiff wrote the letters as part of an attempt to construct a plausible argument that he filed a grievance in 2010 when he in fact did not file a grievance. In short, Plaintiff's testimony that he filed the grievance is not credible.

While no system is infallible, the most credible and persuasive evidence establishes that the lack of any record in the jail of Plaintiff filing a grievance is not the result of a system failure at the Somerset County Jail.[9] Rather, the most likely reason that the Somerset County Jail has no record of a grievance is that Plaintiff did not file the grievance.[10] Defendant, therefore, has established by a preponderance of evidence that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedy before commencing this action. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Maloney and Walters.[11]


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