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Osborn v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 29, 2017

EARL OSBORN, Plaintiff,
CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.



         Earl Osborn (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Osborn”), currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”) in Suffield, Connecticut, has sued various MacDougall employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for their failure to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. Mr. Osborn seeks declaratory relief and an award of damages from the MacDougall employees who Mr. Osborn contends acted with deliberate indifference to the physical violence he suffered at the hands of his cellmate.

         Then-Lieutenant Ruben Burgos (“Lieutenant Burgos”), Lieutenant Christopher Williams (“Lieutenant Williams”), Lieutenant Jason Beebe (“Lieutenant Beebe”), Clinical Social Worker James Castro (“Mr. Castro”), Correctional Officer Lyndon Standard (“Officer Standard”), John Doe, Jane Doe 1, and Jane Doe 2 (collectively “Defendants”) have moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Osborn failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

         For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.



         To Mr. Osborn, it all started when he was transferred to Cell N-29 of MacDougall's N-Pod on October 3, 2013. Pl.'s SMF at 6. “Right off the bat” his cellmate, John Hightower, allegedly exhibited a “hostile attitude” toward Osborn, id.; Def.'s Br., Ex. C, Osborn Dep. at 18:11-12, attempting to intimidate Mr. Osborn physically by threatening to rape and murder him, Pl.'s SMF at 6.

         Mr. Osborn voiced his concerns about Mr. Hightower to various members of MacDougall's staff. Mr. Osborn met with Nurse Tawanna Furtick in the medical unit. Pl.'s SMF at 3; Defs.' SMF ¶ 8. Osborn complained to Nurse Furtick: “They got me housed with this maniac.” Pl.'s SMF at 8.

         While at the medical unit, Mr. Osborn also spoke with Lieutenant Burgos about his concerns with Mr. Hightower. Although Lieutenant Burgos maintains that during their conversation Mr. Osborn informed him that Mr. Osborn merely complained that Mr. Hightower “talk[ed] way too much” and Mr. Osborn “wanted to be left alone, ” Defs.' Br., Ex. F, Burgos Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 50-7, Mr. Osborn alleges that he informed Lieutenant Bargos that Mr. Hightower was threatening to do bodily harm to Mr. Osborn. Pl.'s SMF at 8. Mr. Osborn allegedly told Lieutenant Bargos: “[Hightower] said he was going to kill me. He said he was going to throw me underneath the toilet and bang my head up against the toilet, and that no one will find out about it.” Osborn Dep. at 25:3-9, Defs.' Br., Ex. C, ECF No. 50-4.

         On October 11, 2013, Mr. Osborn spoke with Licensed Social Worker Deborah Eddinger (then Rothbaum) about “issues with [his] current cellie.” Id. In her treatment notes, Ms. Eddinger wrote: “The captain reports [Mr. Osborn and Mr. Hightower] will be separated on second shift.” Pl.'s Opp., Ex. B, Eddinger Dep. at 27:16-20, ECF No. 53-3; Eddinger Dep., Ex. 8(B), Osborn Clinical Rec., ECF No. 53-3, at 57. Nothing allegedly came of the captain's assurance. See Osborn Aff. ¶ 4, ECF No. 53-12 (“I told them Hightower was telling me he was going to hit my head on the toilet, going to kill me, dispose of my body where nobody would ever find it. I was told in Debbie [Eddinger]'s officer I would be transferred and I trusted them.”).

         Then, early on October 13, 2013, Mr. Osborn claims Mr. Hightower violently assaulted him, and claims Defendants, knowing the danger Mr. Osborn's cellmate posed to him, failed to protect him. Pl.'s SMF at 2; Defs.' SMF ¶ 4. Between 1:30 a.m. and 1:55 a.m. that morning, Mr. Osborn contends that Mr. Hightower punched Mr. Osborn in the head. Pl.'s SMF at 7. Mr. Osborn also alleges that Mr. Hightower grabbed and twisted Mr. Osborn's foot, breaking his toe. Id.

         1. Plaintiff's Mental State

         Mr. Osborn acknowledges suffering from “a mental condition.” Osborn Aff. ¶ 6. On November 14, 2013, a MacDougall medical professional with whom Mr. Osborn met noted: “Inmate did well off meds for a couple of months but then decompensated . . . . ” Defs.' Br., Ex. E, CMHC JDH Psychiatric Note, ECF No. 50-6 at 8. She noted that, upon restarting medication therapy, Mr. Osborn “appear[ed] to be back at his baseline.” Id.; see generally Id. at 12-16 (including notes from medical care providers Mr. Osborn saw between November 8, 2013, and November 15, 2013).

         2. MacDougall's Grievance Procedures

         An inmate at a Connecticut Department of Correction facility who wishes to file a grievance must follow the procedure established in Connecticut Department of Correction Administrative Directive 9.6 (“Directive 9.6”). See generally Conn. Dep't of Corr. Admin. Directive 9.6, effective August 15, 2013, Defs.' Br., Ex. A, ECF No. 50-2. “All matters subject to the Commissioner's authority . . . are grievable.” Id. § 6(B).

         Under Directive 9.6, administrative review generally occurs in three steps. First, an inmate must seek to resolve his or her complaint informally by depositing an Inmate Request Form (CN 9601) in a designated collection box. Id. § 6(A). If the inmate is dissatisfied with the response to his or her Inmate Request Form or does not receive a response within fifteen days, id., the inmate may proceed to the second step, which is termed “Level One Review.” Id. §§ 6(C), 6(I). To initiate Level One Review, an inmate completes the Inmate Administrative Remedy Form (CN 9602). Id. § 6(C).

         At this point, the inmate is required to provide evidence that he or she attempted to informally resolve his or her grievance by attaching the Inmate Request Form (CN 9601) to CN 9602. Id. The inmate also has the option of submitting CN 9602 without attaching CN 9601 and providing a “valid reason” why he or she could not obtain the form. Id. In the Administrative Directive, the Department of Correction indicates that not receiving a “timely response” to an inmate request would be a “valid reason” for not attaching the CN 9601 form. Id. Level One Review is undertaken by the Unit Administrator, who must respond to the grievance in writing within thirty days. Id. § 6(I).

         An inmate may proceed to the third step, Level Two Review, if he or she disagrees with the Unit Administrator's judgment or does not receive a timely response. Id. Generally, Level Two Review takes place before a District Administrator and is the final stage of appeal. Id. § K. Level Three appeals are restricted to challenges to department policy or the integrity of the grievance procedure, or to appeals of Level Two grievances to which the District Administrator has failed to respond in a timely manner. See id. § (6)(L).

         3. Plaintiff's Grievances

         On four occasions, Mr. Osborn used MacDougall's grievance procedure to challenge aspects of the October 13, 2013, incident with Mr. Hightower. Defs.' SMF ¶ 6. Mr. Osborn filed these grievances on March 1, 2014, March 7, 2014, March 7, 2014, and March 14, 2014. Id. ¶ 7. Mr. Osborn maintains that he also made a written complaint to the “Captain/Unit Manager” on October 11, 2013, ...

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