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Prison Litigation Reform Act- Grievance Procedure

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Varren King v. Thomas Dart

Case No.: 22-1611

Officials: Flaum, Easterbrook, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Prison Litigation Reform Act- Grievance Procedure

King is a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail. He sued Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, Officer R. Szul, and Cook County for claims arising out of a March 29, 2019, incident in which another detainee punched him and threw hot coffee on him, causing third-degree burns. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that King had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).

King appeals the district court’s grant of summary judgment on his failure-to-protect claim and delayed-medical treatment claim. The Seventh Circuit finds that the district court erred regarding the former but affirm with respect to the latter. Because the Jail’s procedure for grievances that are referred to OPR or the Divisional Superintendent is so obscure that no ordinary prisoner could make sense of it, the remedy was unavailable, and King was not required to exhaust it before bringing his failure-to-protect claim in federal court. King was, however, required to exhaust the grievance procedure with respect to his delayed-medical-treatment claim. He failed to do so. As such, summary judgment was warranted on that claim.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

Decided 03/22/23

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