Townsend v. Murphy, No. 17-2783 (8th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, an inmate at an Arkansas prison, filed suit against three prison officials for requiring him to work with deadly chlorine gas without proper training and safety gear. The district court granted summary judgment to the officials based on plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
The Eighth Circuit, accepting plaintiff's declaration as true, held that Defendant Perry misled plaintiff and thus the formal grievance procedure was unavailable to plaintiff. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to Defendant Murphy where plaintiff did not file his formal grievance in time. In regard to Defendant Romine and White, the court held that the informal complaint process was capable of use and could have provided some relief and thus the administrative exhaustion requirement applied regardless of whether the formal grievance procedure was later available to plaintiff. In the alternative, plaintiff failed to exhaust his remedies against Romine and White. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment as to these two defendants.