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Cason v. D.C. Dep't of Corrections

March 9, 2007

PHILLIP T. CASON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D.C. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Corrections Corporation of America's motion to dismiss, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and Plaintiff's motion for default judgment as to the "Contracted Medical Staff of the Department of Corrections."*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' dispositive motions and deny Plaintiff's motion for default judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

The District of Columbia Department of Corrections ("DOC") operates the Central Detention Facility, commonly known as the D.C. Jail. An outside contractor, the Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"), operates the District's Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF").

Plaintiff alleges that, on March 12, 2005 "while working kitchen detail at the D.C. Jail, a cleaning agent called limeaway got into [his] left eye." Complaint ("Compl."), Attach. (CCA Inmate/Resident Grievance Form) at 1. He states that he was transferred to CTF after his release from a hospital, was placed in CCA's contamination housing unit for two days, but was "without medical care" on those days. Id. at 2. Plaintiff brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Court construes the claim as an alleged denial of adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Insofar as Plaintiff alleges that he was "wrongfully diagnosed by medical staff" at the D.C. Jail, see id. at 4, the Court assumes that Plaintiff also brings a negligence claim against the District of Columbia.*fn2

II. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff Failed to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

CCA and the District of Columbia move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on the ground that he failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing this action. See Def. Corrections Corp. of Am.'s Mot. to Dismiss & Mem. of Law in Support ("CCA Mot.") at 4-7; Dep't of Corrections' Renewed Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summ J. ("D.C. Mot.") at 1 (adopting CCA's arguments).

In relevant part, the Prison Litigation Reform Act provides that:

[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined to any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement of § 1997e(a) is mandatory, Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910, 918 (2006), and "applies to all prisoners seeking redress for prison circumstances or occurrences." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 520 (2002). A prisoner must complete the administrative process "regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures." Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Thus, a prisoner may file a civil action concerning conditions of confinement under federal law only after he has exhausted the prison's administrative remedies. Jackson v. District of Columbia, 254 F.3d 262, 269 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Exhaustion of administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, not a pleading requirement. Jones, 127 S.Ct. at 919-22; Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d 674, 681 (4th Cir. 2005) ("an inmate's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies must be viewed as an affirmative defense that should be pleaded or otherwise properly raised by the defendant"); see Jackson, 254 F.3d at 267 (treating exhaustion as affirmative defense).

Here, Defendants neither set forth the required steps in the inmate grievance process nor support their argument that Plaintiff failed to complete those steps. Plaintiff counters that he filed grievances both at the D.C. Jail and at CTF, and that he has exhausted all available administrative remedies before his transfer to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss & for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 11-12 (page numbers designated by the Court) & Declaration ¶ 10. Therefore, the Court cannot grant defendants' motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing the instant civil action.

B. Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

In the alternative, CCA and the District of Columbia move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on the ground that Plaintiff fails to state a constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983.*fn3 See CCA Mot. at 2-3; D.C. Mot. at 1 (adopting CCA's arguments). The Court holds pleadings prepared by pro se litigants to less stringent standards than those applied to formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Notwithstanding the minimal and vague allegations of the Complaint, the Court considers Plaintiff's expanded statements of facts set forth in his opposition to CCA's motion to dismiss. See Richardson v. United ...


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