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Price v. Land

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 2, 2017

ROBERT PRICE, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. EURGIA C. LAND, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge

         The matter comes before the court on defendant's motion for partial summary judgment (DE 26) and plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment (DE 37). Also before the court is defendant's motion for the entry of a protective order (DE 31). For the following reasons, the court denies without prejudice both motions for summary judgment and allows defendant's motion for the entry of a protective order.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On June 25, 2015, plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Specifically, plaintiff contends that defendant consistently disregarded his complaints about pain throughout his body. (Compl. p. 3). Plaintiff's claims survived frivolity review on April 13, 2016, and the clerk of court was directed to maintain management of the action. On June 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied without prejudice both because plaintiff had not met his burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of fact, and also because his motion was premature. (June 27, 2016 Order (DE 22) at 1).

         Defendant filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment on July 20, 2016, arguing that portions of plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this action. Contemporaneously with his motion for summary judgment, defendant also filed a motion for the entry of a protective order, arguing that he should not be required to respond to plaintiff's discovery requests until the entry of a case management order by the court. Plaintiff responded to defendant's motion for partial summary judgment on September 15, 2016, and, on October 18, 2016, filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. These matters are now ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Protective Order

         Defendant requests that he not be required to respond to plaintiff's discovery requests pending resolution of his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and the entry of a case management order in this matter. A district court has the authority pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) to establish limitations on discovery. Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Virginia, Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995). The court may properly exercise its discretion pursuant to Rule 26(c) to issue a stay of discovery pending resolution of dispositive motions. Tilley v. United States, 270 F.Supp.2d 731, 734 (M.D. N.C. 2003), aff'd, 85 F. App'x 333 (4th Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 819 (2004). Accordingly, defendant's motion for the entry of a protective order is GRANTED.

         B. Cross-motions for Summary Judgment

         1. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. “When cross-motions for summary judgment are before a court, the court examines each motion separately, employing the familiar standard under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming, L.L.C., 630 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2011).

         2. Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         Defendant, with regard to plaintiff's complaints relating to pain and swelling in his hands and wrists, raises the affirmative defense that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires a prisoner to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning his confinement. Ross v. Blake, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016) (“[A] court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take [special circumstances] into account.”); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-85 (2006); see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 217 (2007) (“failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under [42 U.S.C. § 1997e]”); Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d 674, 683 (4th Cir. 2005). The PLRA states 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 . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Woodford, 548 U.S. at 84. Exhaustion is mandatory. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 85; Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002) (“Once within the discretion of the district court, exhaustion in cases covered by § 1997e(a) is now mandatory.”); Anderson, 407 F.3d at 677. A prisoner must exhaust his administrative remedies even if the relief requested is not available under the administrative process. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). “[U]nexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 211.

         The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) has a three-step administrative remedy procedure which governs the filing of grievances. See, e.g., Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 721 (4th Cir. 2008). The DPS's Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) first encourages inmates to attempt informal communication with responsible authorities at the facility in which the problem arose. DPS ARP § .0301(a). If informal resolution is unsuccessful, the DPS ARP provides that any inmate in DPS custody may submit a written grievance on Form DC-410. Id. § .0310(a). If the inmate is not satisfied with the decision reached at the step one level of the grievance process, he may request relief from the Facility Head. Id. § .0310(b)(1). If the inmate is not satisfied with the decision reached by the Facility Head, he may appeal his grievance to the Secretary of Correction through the inmate grievance examiner. Id. § .0310(c)(1). The decision by the Inmate Grievance Examiner or a modification by the Secretary of Correction shall constitute the final step of the ARP. Id. ยง .0310(c)(6). An inmate's administrative remedy request may be ...


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