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Clay v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

September 28, 2018

A. T. WALL, et al., Defendants.


          William E. Smith Chief Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff Andrew Brian Clay (“Plaintiff” or “Clay”), a prisoner at the Adult Correctional Institutions (“ACI”), has brought a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants A. T. Wall, Lieutenant Caverhali, Correctional Officer Mitchelle, and Correctional Officer Rugs (collectively “Defendants”), [1] all of whom are sued in their individual and official capacities. Defendants seek dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted due to Clay's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies at the ACI. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.


         Clay is an inmate at the ACI in Cranston, Rhode Island. Defendants are officials of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (“RIDOC”) and/or officers at the ACI. In a “Statement of Claim” (ECF No. 1-1) attached to his Complaint, Clay alleges that on or about February 25, 2017, correctional officers (“COs”) at the ACI used excessive force in the process of “cuffing up” Clay. (Statement of Claim 1.) Clay was injured as a result and was transported to Rhode Island Hospital, where a CT scan was performed and he received a total of seventeen stitches. (Id.) He also lost a tooth. (Id.) Clay attempted to pursue his allegations regarding this incident through the RIDOC Grievance Procedure, but, he states, his attempts to do so were met with opposition from ACI personnel. (Compl. 8-9, ECF No. 1.)

         Clay filed the instant Complaint on October 11, 2017.[2]Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and memorandum in support thereof (“Defendants' Mem.”) were filed on December 19, 2017. Thereafter, Clay filed a response in opposition (“Response, ” ECF No. 14), and Defendants filed a Reply Memorandum (“Defendants' Reply, ” ECF No. 17) in support of their Motion to Dismiss.


         I. 12(b)(6) Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Negron-Gaztambide v. Hernandez-Torres, 35 F.3d 25, 27 (1st Cir. 1994), taking all well-pleaded allegations as true and giving the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences, see Arruda v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 310 F.3d 13, 18 (1st Cir. 2002); Carreiro v. Rhodes Gill & Co., 68 F.3d 1443, 1446 (1st Cir. 1995). “[I]f, under any theory, the allegations are sufficient to state a cause of action in accordance with the law, ” the motion to dismiss must be denied. Vartanian v. Monsanto Co., 14 F.3d 697, 700 (1st Cir. 1994).

         While a plaintiff need not plead factual allegations in great detail, the allegations must be sufficiently precise to raise a right to relief beyond mere speculation. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561-63 (2007) (abrogating the “no set of facts” rule of Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 44-45 (1957)). “The complaint must allege ‘a plausible entitlement to relief' in order to survive a motion to dismiss.” Thomas v. Rhode Island, 542 F.3d 944, 948 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 559); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (“When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”). The Court of Appeals has cautioned that the “plausibility” requirement is not akin to a “standard of likely success on the merits, ” but, instead, “the standard is plausibility assuming the pleaded facts to be true and read in a plaintiff's favor.” Sepúlveda-Villarini v. Dep't of Educ. of P.R., 628 F.3d 25, 30 (1st Cir. 2010).

         In considering a motion to dismiss a prisoner's claim that his constitutional rights have been violated, the court must be guided by the principle that, while “prison officials are to be accorded substantial deference in the way they run their prisons, this does not mean that we will rubber stamp or mechanically accept the judgments of prison administrators.” Spratt v. R.I. Dep't of Corr., 482 F.3d 33, 40 (1st Cir. 2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, this Court has liberally reviewed Plaintiff's allegations and legal claims since they have been put forth by a pro se litigant. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, 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 in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “Section 1997e requires an inmate to exhaust all available administrative processes before filing a federal lawsuit relating to the conditions of his or her confinement, even if some or all of the relief the inmate seeks is not available through the administrative process.” Young v. Wall, No. Civ.A. 03-220S, 2006 WL 858085, at *2 (D.R.I. Feb. 27, 2006)(citing Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 734 (2001)). The “PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). In Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006), the Supreme Court held that “to properly exhaust administrative remedies prisoners must ‘complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules'-rules that are defined not by the PLRA, but by the prison grievance process itself.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007)(quoting Ngo, 548 U.S. at 88) (internal citation omitted); see also Id. (“[I]t is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.”). “Non-exhaustion of administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, and the defendants bear the ultimate burden of pleading and proving non-exhaustion.” Maraglia v. Maloney, Civil Action No. 2001-12144-RBC, 2006 WL 3741927, at *1 (D. Mass. Dec. 18, 2006)(citing Casanova v. Dubois, 304 F.3d 75, 77 n.3 (1st Cir. 2002)); see also Jones, 549 U.S. at 216 (concluding that failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA).


         Defendants assert that “there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the Complaint in this civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Andrew Brian Clay . . ., should be dismissed as a matter of law for his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies under the RIDOC Grievance Procedure.” (Defendants' Mem. 1, ECF No. 7.) Clay concedes that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to the ...

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