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Celis v. Ruiz

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 23, 2019

MIGUEL A. CELIS, V74892, Plaintiff,
v.
R. RUIZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON GROUNDS OF FAILURE TO PROPERLY EXHAUST (ECF NO. 22)

          CHARLES R. BREYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently before the court for decision is defendants' motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on the grounds that plaintiff failed to properly exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On February 2, 2019, plaintiff, a prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP), filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his health and safety by several correctional and medical officials at SVSP. ECF No. 1.

         Plaintiff alleges that on November 23, 2017, Correctional Officer R. Ruiz acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's health and safety when, in an attempt to stop an assault on plaintiff by another prisoner, Ruiz fired a rubber bullet at close range and without warning hitting plaintiff on the head and causing him serious head injury. Id. at 6. Plaintiff further alleges that doctors Steven Virant, Carl Bourne and Anthony Huyuth, and Chief Medical Officer Bright, have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to properly address and treat his repeated complaints of severe headaches, dizziness and memory loss. Id. at 8-12

         Defendants move for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on grounds that plaintiff failed to properly exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit, as required by the PLRA. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff did not file an opposition despite being advised to do so.

         STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED FACTS

         On January 8, 2018, plaintiff filed grievance SVSP-18-000156, which alleged that Ruiz used inappropriate or excessive force by shooting plaintiff with a rubber foam bullet during an altercation between plaintiff and another prisoner on November 27, 2017. ECF No. 22, Spaich Decl., Ex. B at 3-6. The grievance bypassed the first level of review and was processed as a staff complaint at the second level of review. Id. at 7-8. On February 4, 2018, the grievance was denied at the second level. Id. The second level response found that Ruiz did not violate California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) policy and noted that plaintiff was interviewed about the issue, and his only statement in support of his claim was “no comment.” Id. Plaintiff appealed the denial to the third level of review. At the third level, the office of appeals received plaintiff's appeal on March 1, 2018 but cancelled it on the ground that plaintiff exceeded the time limits to submit the appeal despite having the opportunity to do so within the prescribed time limits. Id. at 2. The letter informing him of the cancellation decision advised the he could separately appeal the cancellation decision. Id. Plaintiff did not do so. Id. at Ex. A.

         On November 28, 2018, plaintiff filed healthcare grievance SVSP-HC-18002544, asserting that he was shot with a rubber foam bullet on November 27, 2017, requesting an MRI, and claiming that medical staff violated his constitutional rights by denying the MRI. ECF No. 22, Gates Decl., Ex. B at 4-5. He received a response from the institutional level - the first level of review - stating that no intervention by the institution was necessary. Id. at 2-3. The response also notified plaintiff that he could appeal the decision by submitting his grievance to the headquarters level, and the headquarters level review would constitute the final disputation and exhaust his administrative remedies. Id. Plaintiff did not appeal to the headquarters level. Id. at Ex. A.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         “The PLRA mandates that inmates exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing ‘any suit challenging prison conditions,' including, but not limited to, suits under § 1983.” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1171 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006)). To the extent that the evidence in the record permits, the appropriate procedural device for pretrial determination of whether administrative remedies have been exhausted under the PLRA is a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. Id. at 1168. The burden is on the defendant to prove that there was an available administrative remedy that the plaintiff failed to exhaust. Id. at 1172. If the defendant meets that burden, the burden shifts to the prisoner to present evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him. Id. The ultimate burden of proof remains with the defendant, however. Id.

         If undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56. Id. at 1166. But if material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied and the district judge ...


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