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Prisons & Jails – Administrative – Exhaustion Requirement – Constitutional – Eighth Amendment – CPAP Machine

Prisons & Jails – Administrative – Exhaustion Requirement – Constitutional – Eighth Amendment – CPAP Machine

Owle v. Solomon (Lawyers Weekly No. 004-010-17, 23 pp.) (Richard Voorhees, J.) 5:16-cv-00025; W.D.N.C.

Holding: After defendants moved the plaintiff-prisoner into a cell that lacked an electrical outlet for plugging in his CPAP machine, plaintiff submitted a letter that would have been timely under the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Administrative Remedy Procedures; however, the letter (1) was not completed on the required Form DC-410 and (2) simply sought a remedy for the electrical outlet issue rather than expressing a desire to initiate the administrative process or to have a grievance screening officer review his complaint. Plaintiff’s Form DC-410 was submitted more than 90 days after the last day he was without an electrical outlet.

The court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Alternatively, the court grants summary judgment for defendants on the merits of plaintiff’s claims.

Plaintiff was diagnosed with mild, REM predominate obstructive sleep apnea, and he frequently declined to use the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine prescribed for him, including a three-week lapse mere weeks before the nine-night period in question as well as another lapse several months later. The only medical professionals to opine on what impact plaintiff’s inability to use his CPAP machine for the nine nights at issue had on his sleep apnea condition said that plaintiff’s inability to use his machine “did not cause any new medical problems and did not cause deterioration, or symptoms exacerbation of [plaintiff’s] pre-existing medical disorders.” Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the deprivation of medical care was sufficiently serious to make out an Eighth Amendment claim of cruel and unusual punishment.

Plaintiff also failed to make out the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment claim. Several of the individual defendants had no knowledge of the events giving rise to this litigation. Defendant Farris responded promptly to plaintiff’s reported medical need and took effective steps to assure that plaintiff had an electrical outlet on the same night that Farris learned of plaintiff’s need.

Finally, defendant Miller allegedly indicated that plaintiff’s need for an outlet was not her problem, and she directed plaintiff to the sergeant on duty in plaintiff’s new prison unit. Although Miller might have expressed more empathy when speaking with plaintiff, her response directing plaintiff to the sergeant on duty was an appropriate response reasonably calculated to inform plaintiff of the individual responsible for overseeing his custody in the new unit.

Motion granted.


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