United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
former prison inmate whose toe was amputated because a County
Jail and its employees refused to allow him to wear diabetic
shoes has survived a motion for summary judgment against jail
personnel who were aware of his medical condition and failed
or refused, despite his requests, to provide him with proper
footwear and against the jail itself, which adopted policies
that prohibited him from wearing proper footwear while
STATEMENT OF FACTS
March 6, 2015, Joseph Edward Bovin Belskis filed a complaint
in this Court against various federal, county, and individual
actors, including a medical contracting business and several
of its employees, alleging that they violated his civil
rights while he was a federal prisoner housed at the Somerset
County Jail. Compl. (ECF No. 1). Mr. Belskis began
this legal action acting pro se; however, once he survived a
motion to dismiss and motion for judgment on the pleadings
and faced motions for summary judgment, the Court asked
Attorney Jon Haddow to represent Mr. Belskis and on March 31,
2017, Attorney Haddow entered his appearance on Mr.
Belskis' behalf. Notice of Appearance (ECF No.
November 21, 2016, the so-called County
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment,
County Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 215),
together with a statement of uncontested material facts.
County Defs.' Statement of Uncontested Material
Facts (ECF No. 216). On March 2, 2017, the Magistrate
Judge issued a recommended decision on the County
Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Recommended
Decision on County Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No.
240) (Rec. Dec.). On March 9, 2017, Mr. Belskis,
acting pro se, objected to the Magistrate Judge's
recommended decision. Pl.'s Obj. to Recommended
Decision (ECF No. 241) (Pl.'s Obj. to Rec.
Dec.). On March 13, 2017, Mr. Belskis, still acting pro
se, filed a supplemental objection to the Magistrate
Judge's recommended decision. Pl.'s Suppl.
Objection to County Recommended Decision (ECF No. 249).
On March 14, 2017, the County Defendants also filed an
objection to the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Decision.
Somerset County Defs.' Partial Obj. to Recommended
Decision on Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 246) (County
Obj. to Rec. Dec.). On March 16, 2017, the County
Defendants filed a response to Mr. Belskis' objection to
the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Decision. Somerset
County Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Obj. to Recommended
Decision (ECF No. 248). After Attorney Haddow entered
his appearance on behalf of Mr. Belskis, he filed a notice of
consent to the Magistrate Judge's recommended decision.
Pl.'s Notice of Consent to Recommended Decision on
County Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 264). This
left only one matter pending on the Magistrate Judge's
recommended decision, the County Defendants' partial
THE RECOMMENDED DECISION
recommended decision, the Magistrate Judge recommended that
this Court dismiss Mr. Belskis' Complaint against three
of the Somerset County Defendants and deny the motion as
regards the remaining Somerset County
Defendants. Recommended Decision at 22. The
Magistrate Judge's recommended decision addresses the
three issues that the Somerset County Defendants contended
entitled them to summary judgment: (1) whether Mr.
Belskis' claims were barred because he failed to exhaust
administrative remedies, (2) whether the doctrine of
qualified immunity protects them from liability, and (3)
whether Mr. Belskis had established that Somerset County had
adopted a custom, policy or practice or that a decision made
in a supervisory capacity, either of which led to the
deprivation of a constitutional right. Id. at 1-2.
Magistrate Judge rejected the motion for summary judgment
based on an asserted failure to exhaust administrative
remedies. Id. at 13-16. The record reflected that
Mr. Belskis had gone through Level 1 and Level 2 grievances.
Id. at 15. The County Defendants contended that he
had failed to appeal to Level 3, the final level of
administrative review. Id. The Court observed that
an inmate is required to file a letter of appeal to the
Department of Corrections only after receiving a response to
the Level 2 grievance. Id. Mr. Belskis denied
receiving a response to the Level 2 grievance and the
Magistrate Judge concluded that his denial created a factual
issue as to whether Level 3 “was available to
Plaintiff.” Id. at 16.
Magistrate Judge next addressed the issue of qualified
immunity. The Magistrate Judge recited the “deliberate
indifference” objective and subjective standards as
they apply to the provision of medical care to an inmate.
Id. at 16-17. The Magistrate Judge concluded that
the record failed to establish evidence that Defendants
Delong, Lancaster, or Giggy, “individually or in a
supervisory capacity, was involved in the care Plaintiff
received at the Somerset County Jail.” Id. at
20. Yet, the Magistrate Judge concluded that for the
remaining Somerset County Defendants, “the same facts
would raise a genuine issue whether a reasonable officer in
their position would have appreciated that such acts or
omissions violated clearly established law.”
Magistrate Judge also discussed Mr. Belskis' official
capacity claims against Somerset County. Id. at 21.
Here, he concluded that the record “contains sufficient
facts to support a claim based on a policy of the
County.” Id. More specifically, he wrote,
“a factfinder could conclude Plaintiff was deprived of
his diabetic shoes and thus denied the required care because
of the County's contraband policy as applied to
Plaintiff's diabetic shoes.” Id. at 21-22.
THE COUNTY'S OBJECTION
March 14, 2017, the Somerset County Defendants filed a
partial objection to the Magistrate Judge's recommended
decision. County Obj. to Rec. Dec. at 1-6. The
Somerset County Defendants obviously did not object to the
recommended decision to the extent it recommended dismissal
of Mr. Belskis' claims against some of them. Id.
at 1 n.1. But they did object to the extent the Magistrate
Judge recommended against summarily dismissing others from
Mr. Belskis' case. Id. at 1-5. Nor did they
object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation about the
failure to exhaust defense.
the individual Somerset County Defendants complain that the
Magistrate Judge “failed to consider whether despite
their knowledge [of Mr. Belskis' condition], these
Defendants responded properly by providing Belskis with
continued medical care, allowing him to ...