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Ryan W. Mcerlean v. Opinion

December 7, 2010

RYAN W. MCERLEAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OPINION WARDEN GARY MERLINE, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bumb, United States District Judge:

This matter comes before the Court upon two motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the first by defendants Atlantic County and Atlantic County Justice Facility Warden Gary Merline ("County Defendants") and the second by CFG Health Systems, LLC (collectively the "Defendants"). Pro se plaintiff Ryan McErlean, formerly an inmate at Atlantic County Justice Facility ("ACJF"), brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by subjecting him to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, exposing him to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA"), and subsequently failing to provide him with adequate medical care.*fn1

Defendants now move for summary judgment on several grounds, including Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, a threshold issue. The Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to CFG's claims and, accordingly, grants summary judgment as to those claims. Regarding the County Defendants' motion, the Court finds that a factual dispute regarding Plaintiff's exhaustion precludes summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court denies the County Defendants' motion without prejudice and shall conduct an evidentiary hearing to resolve the matter.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff initiated this action on November 28, 2007, asserting claims against Atlantic County prosecutors for unlawful imprisonment, illegal arrest, and malicious prosecution, stemming from his arrest in an airport for possession of a weapon. The Court dismissed the original Complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff then moved to re-open and file an amended complaint, which the Court permitted.

Plaintiff, now confined at South Woods State Prison for an unrelated matter, again amended his Complaint on July 13, 2009, adding Defendants CFG and the Fire Marshall for the State of New Jersey, Lawrence Petrillo. Petrillo moved to dismiss the claims against him, which the Court granted on April 23, 2010. CFG moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The Court denied this motion, also on April 23, 2010, finding that Plaintiff's claims in his Second Amended Complaint "related back" to the date of the original Complaint.

The Second Amended Complaint raises various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that during his incarceration at ACJF, he was exposed to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, which caused him to contract MRSA.*fn3 He also alleges that his MRSA was improperly treated, placing him at risk of amputation or death and subjecting him to severe pain.

The relevant facts are as follows. On June 8, 2006, Plaintiff saw a nurse regarding a boil under his arm. The nurse identified it as MRSA and put him on a fourteen-day cycle of the antibiotic Bactrim. During this two-week treatment, Plaintiff noticed that the boil "came to a head, started leaking out pus, and then [] went away." (McErlean Dep., Def. CFG Summ. J. Br., Ex. G 33:19-21.) His condition cleared up within 20 days. (Id. at 34:4-13.)

Plaintiff alleges that on November 4, 2006, he went to the medical department for a rash on his foot, which was mis-diagnosed as athlete's foot. On November 29, 2006, Plaintiff returned to the medical department, complaining of a "boil" on his foot.*fn4 A doctor diagnosed Plaintiff with cellulitis, prescribed the drug Keflex for him, and instructed him to use a warm compress and elevate his foot. (CFG's Summ. J. Br. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff had been in court for the previous three days. He maintains that he was in a great deal of pain, had a high fever, was sick to his stomach, and that his foot and leg swelled and blackened during this time. On November 30, 2006, Plaintiff was transferred to the Ocean County Jail. There, the medical department isolated Plaintiff, cultured his boil, which revealed it to be MRSA, and switched Plaintiff from Keflex to an antifungal ointment and Bactrim. (CFG's Ex. I 46.) Plaintiff's condition cleared up within 15 to 20 days of proper treatment. (McErlean Dep. 72:15-23.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was exposed to MRSA, as well as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, due to the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions of ACJF. He states that he "filed multiple grievances as to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, vermin and infestations, failure to isolate inmates with infections [sic] diseases, [and] failure to provide full legal access." (Second Am. Compl. § 44.)

Defendants now move for summary judgment on several grounds, including Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this action.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A fact is "material" if it will "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . . ." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if it could lead a "reasonable jury [to] return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 250.

When deciding the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, a court's role is not to weigh the evidence: all reasonable "inferences, doubts, and issues of credibility should be resolved against the moving party." Meyer v. Riegel Products Corp., 720

F.2d 303, 307 n.2 (3d Cir. 1983). However, "a mere scintilla of evidence," without more, will not give rise to a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In the face of such evidence, summary judgment is still appropriate "where the record . . . could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party . . . ." Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986). "Summary judgment motions thus require judges to 'assess how one-sided evidence is, or what a 'fair-minded' jury ...


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