United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. Schwab Chief United States Magistrate Judge
a civil rights case in which the plaintiff, Denise Dixon
(“Dixon”), alleges that she was injured by a
defective dishwasher while she was incarcerated at the State
Correctional Institution at Muncy, Pennsylvania (“SCI
Muncy” or “the prison”). Dixon raises
claims arising out of her initial injuries and her subsequent
medical care while at the prison.
case is presently before the court on two motions for summary
judgment, both of which assert that Dixon failed to exhaust
her administrative remedies before filing suit in this
case. After those motions were filed, the Third
Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential decision in
Garrett v. Wexford Health, __ F.3d __, No. 17-3480,
2019 WL 4265187 (3d Cir. Sept. 10, 2019), in which the court
held that former prisoners are not subject to the Prison
Litigation Reform Act's administrative exhaustion
requirement. Id. at *8. Under Garrett, an
inmate who files a complaint while in custody and
subsequently files an amended complaint after she is released
from custody cannot have her amended complaint dismissed for
failure to exhaust. Id. at *8, 14.
that this case is directly controlled by the Third
Circuit's holding in Garrett because Dixon was
released from prison on November 27, 2017 and she filed her
amended complaint on February 28, 2018. Accordingly, we
recommend that both motions for summary judgment be denied.
Background and Procedural History.
initiated this case by filing a complaint on October 5, 2017.
Doc. 1. Shortly after filing her complaint, Dixon
was released from the custody of the Pennsylvania Department
of Corrections (“DOC”) on November 27, 2017.
Doc. 98. We granted Dixon leave to file an amended
complaint on January 31, 2018, and she did so on February 28,
2018. Docs. 27-28.
Correct Care Solutions (“Correct Care”),
Freeland, and Rishelfiled a motion to dismiss Dixon's
amended complaint on April 18, 2018. Doc. 40.
Defendants Blair-Morrison, Anthony, Frantz, Lowe, Minnig,
Nicholas, Oppman, Schaeffer, Smith, Wetzel, Young, and the
filed a motion to dismiss Dixon's amended complaint on
April 30, 2018. Doc. 42. We denied these motions on
June 29, 2018 (doc. 65), after which the defendants
filed answers to Dixon's amended complaint. See docs.
68, 69, 73. On March 21, 2019, the
parties stipulated to the dismissal of all claims against
defendant ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC. Doc. 78.
April 25, 2019, counsel for the Commonwealth Defendants
advised the court that all remaining defendants planned to
argue that Dixon had failed to exhaust her administrative
remedies. Doc. 82. In response to that letter, we
issued an amended case management order on April 29, 2019 in
which we allowed the defendants to file dispositive motions
on the issue of exhaustion on or before July 31, 2019.
Doc. 83 at 1. We specified that any dispositive
motions filed by that date were to be limited to the issue of
whether Dixon had exhausted her administrative remedies and
that the defendants would have an opportunity to raise other
arguments in dispositive motions at a later date.
Id. We then issued another order vacating and
holding in abeyance all case management deadlines pending the
filing of dispositive motions on the issue of exhaustion.
Medical Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on
July 26, 2019, along with a statement of material facts and a
supporting brief. Docs. 86-88. The Commonwealth
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement
of material facts, and a supporting brief on July 29, 2019.
Docs. 89-91. Dixon filed a brief in opposition to
the Medical Defendants' motion on August 16, 2019, along
with a statement of material facts in response to the Medical
Defendants' statement. Docs. 92-93. She filed a
brief in opposition to the Commonwealth Defendants'
motion and a statement of material facts on August 19, 2019.
Docs. 94-95. The Commonwealth Defendants filed a
reply brief on August 29, 2019. Doc. 96.
the Third Circuit's decision in Garrett, we
issued an order in which we noted that the date on which
Dixon was released from prison was unclear from the record
and accordingly ordered the parties to inform the court of
that date. Doc. 97 at 1-2. The parties did so on
September 16, 2019, stating that Dixon had been released from
DOC custody on November 27, 2017. Doc. 98.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) specifies
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). “[T]he
PLRA requires what is known as ‘proper exhaustion,'
meaning that inmates must comply with the rules and
procedures of prison administrative systems.”
Shifflett v. Korszniak, 934 F.3d 356, 364 (3d Cir.
2019) (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91
(2006)). The procedural requirements that a prisoner must