United States District Court, D. Delaware
CHRISTOPHER H. WEST, Plaintiff,
MARK EMIC and JEFFREY CARROTHERS, Defendants.
Stephen A. Hampton, Grady & Hampton, LLC, Dover, DE;
Nicholas Casamento, Casamento & Ratasiewicz, P.C., Media,
PA - Attorneys for Plaintiff
B. Drowos, Deputy Attorney General, State of Delaware
Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE - Attorneys for
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE:
Christopher H. West ("Plaintiff or "Mr. West")
is a prisoner incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center ("JTVCC") in Smyrna, Delaware.
(D.I. 1). Prior to his incarceration at JTVCC, Mr. West was
housed at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution
("HRYCI") in Wilmington, Delaware. (Id.).
On December 30, 2013, Mr. West filed a Complaint against
Defendants Mark Emig, Deputy Warden of HRYCI, and Jeffrey
Carrothers,  who held the rank of Major and was the
former Operations Security Superintendent for JTVCC (jointly
"Defendants"), alleging violations of the Eighth
Amendment of the United States Constitution pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (Id., at 2). The Complaint
raises issues with Mr. West's conditions of confinement
when he was denied a mattress at times: (1) between September
2011 and February 2012, while he was incarcerated at HRYCI,
and (2) between April 2013 and June 2013, while he was
incarcerated at JTVCC. (Id. at 3).
undisputed that Plaintiff was placed on Psychiatric Close
Observation ("PCO") during these periods after he
"exhibited self-injurious tendencies and demonstrated a
propensity for eating unusual, inedible non-food items such
as pens, pencils, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, batteries,
and even bedding materials." (D.I. 66 at ¶¶
4-6). It is also undisputed that Plaintiffs mattress was
temporarily removed from his cell following an incident where
he ripped open the mattress and ingested its foam padding.
(D.I. 68 at ¶ 15).
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he fully exhausted his
available administrative remedies regarding his claims
because he "tried to file a grievance twice," which
resulted in Mr. West being "denied for being on
psychological observation" and later "denied for
time." (D.I. 1 at 2). A review of the Delaware Automated
Correction System, however, did not indicate any grievances
filed by Plaintiff between September 2011 and February 2012
or between April 2013 and June 2013. (D.I. 66 at ¶¶
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on January 5, 2015. (D.I.
20). On July 24, 2015, the Court granted-in-part and
denied-in-part Defendants' motion, finding that certain
allegations against Defendants were barred by the Eleventh
Amendment, but that Plaintiff had "introduced sufficient
evidence to raise a genuine dispute of material facts"
as it related to the Eight Amendment claims. (D.I. 34. at 5,
10). The Court added that "[i]f the defendants can
present the court with affidavits or other evidence either
discrediting West's allegations or providing an alternate
position, the court will consider a motion by the defendants
that seeks leave to file a renewed motion for summary
judgment." (Id. at 11). Following the
Court's decision, the parties engaged in discovery.
Though Plaintiff had originally filed this action pro
se, he obtained legal representation on August 11, 2017.
filed a Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment on August 20,
2018. (D.I. 66). Defendants argue they are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law because (1) Plaintiff failed to
exhaust available administrative remedies prior to filing
this suit; (2) Plaintiffs claims are barred by qualified
immunity; (3) Defendants have no liability in their
supervisory capacity; and/or (4) Plaintiff has failed to
establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
(Id.). On September 4, 2018, Plaintiff responded to
Defendants' motion. (D.I. 67). As discussed below,
Defendants' motion is granted based on Plaintiffs failure
to exhaust available administrative remedies prior to the
institution of this suit.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 n.10 (1986). The movant can meet this
burden by "citing to particular parts of materials in
the record, including depositions, documents, electronically
stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). If a moving party has sufficiently
carried its burden, a nonmovant must "come forward with
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Matsushita 475 U.S. at 587. The Court
may not make credibility determinations but must instead
"draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party
must "do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as the material facts."
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. A factual dispute is
only genuine where "the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 241-48 (1986). The "mere existence of some
alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat
an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"),
"[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 in any jail, prison, or
other correctional facility until such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C.
§ l997e(a). The requirement for exhaustion of
administrative remedies is absolute, except when such a
remedy is unavailable. See Ross v. Blake, __ U.S.
__, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016) ("[T]he remedies must
indeed be 'available' to the prisoner. But aside from
that exception, the PLRA's text suggest no limits on an
inmate's obligation to exhaust -irrespective of any
'special circumstances.'"). An administrative
remedy is unavailable where "(1) despite what
regulations or guidance materials may promise, it operates as
a simple dead end with officers unable or consistently
unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates; (2) an
administrative scheme is so opaque that it becomes incapable
of use; or (3) when prison administrators thwart inmates from
taking advantage of a grievance process through machination,
misrepresentation, or intimidation." Resop v.