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Harmon v. White

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

January 18, 2017



         The following Proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.


         Plaintiff Henry A. Harmon (“Harmon”), an Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) inmate, filed a complaint on December 29, 2015, alleging he was stabbed repeatedly by another inmate on July 29, 2015, and the defendants failed to protect him from the attack. Specifically, Harmon claims his injuries resulted from “gross negligence, deliberate indifference, egregious failure to protect.” Complaint, page 4. The three individuals sued by Harmon are ADC employees at the Cummins Unit, where the attack occurred.

         The defendants, Jonathan J. White (“White”), Keith Day (“Day”), and Jared Byers (“Byers”) seek summary judgment, alleging Harmon failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit.

         Relevant Facts

         Harmon alleges he informed White, a corporal at the Cummins Unit, of the stabbing around noon on July 29, 2015. According to Harmon, White failed to call an emergency code, failed to provide supervision in the open barracks from the control booth, and allowed another inmate to be in the control booth at the time of the attack, against ADC policy. He states White's failures recklessly exposed him to the attack from another inmate (not the inmate in the control booth). Harmon faults defendant Byers, the assistant warden, for staffing deficiencies and failing to adequately train employees, which he believes resulted in the attack. Defendant Day, a Cummins Unit captain, is alleged to have arrived at the scene of the attack within minutes, placing Harmon in handcuffs and escorting Harmon to building security where he was interviewed. Harmon contends the handcuffing by Day was a violation of ADC policy. In addition, Harmon alleges Day's actions delayed the receipt of medical services. According to the complaint, Day took photos of the stab wounds, but did not do a thorough search for stab wounds. As a result, Harmon later realized he had been stabbed in his left hand, right hip/buttocks area and in his stomach. Harmon states he was later charged with battery in connection with the incident, but was found not guilty of the disciplinary charge.

         Attached to the complaint are two grievances executed by Harmon on August 3 and August 5, 2015. In the grievances Harmon complains that his medical problems stemming from the July 29 attack are not resolved. A response to the August 5 grievance was made, and Harmon's signature shows he received this response on August 13. Elsewhere in the complaint, Harmon concedes that he did not fully exhaust the administrative grievance procedure. Complaint, page 3. He explains that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies because “they wouldn't respond or answer my grievances to these matters after incidents occurred.” Complaint, page 3.

         We now consider if summary judgment is warranted in this case based upon the contention of White, Day, and Byers that Harmon failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to them. Harmon has filed numerous responses to the motion for summary judgment. Docket entry nos. 41, 43-46. In these pleadings, Harmon does not depart from the admission in his complaint that he did not fully exhaust his remedies.

         In support of their claim that Harmon failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the defendants offer the declaration of Barbara Williams (“Williams”), the ADC's Inmate Grievance Supervisor. Docket entry no. 37-2. Williams states that Harmon submitted two grievances, but appealed neither of them. Further, Williams notes that Byers and Day were not named in either of the grievances. The Court has carefully reviewed the grievances in issue.

         For the reasons set forth below, we recommend the motion for summary judgment of White, Day, and Byers be granted due to Harmon's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.

         Standard of Review

         Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Naucke v. City of Park Hills, 284 F.3d 923, 927 (8th Cir. 2002). The nonmoving party may not rely on allegations or denials, but must demonstrate the existence of specific facts that create a genuine issue for trial. Mann v. Yarnell, 497 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2007). The nonmoving party's allegations must be supported by sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy. Id. (citations omitted). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Othman v. City of Country Club Hills, 671 F.3d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 2012). Disputes that are not genuine or that are about facts that are not material will not preclude summary judgment. Sitzes v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 606 F.3d 461, 465 (8th Cir. 2010).


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires an inmate to exhaust prison grievance procedures before filing suit in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 202 (2007); Jones v. Norris, 310 F.3d 610, 612 (8th Cir. 2002). Exhaustion under the PLRA is mandatory. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 211. The PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life whether they involve general circumstances or ...

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