Cases & Deals

Unanimous appeals court reverses dismissal of client's complaint for failure to exhaust

Client(s) Parzyck, Joseph Chester

On December 13, 2010, a unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that pro bono client Joseph Chester Parzyck may pursue his Section 1983 claims against his former prison health officer, Dr. Daniel Cherry, arising out of continued denial of appropriate medical care. The court found that the district court erred in dismissing Parzyck's pro se complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(a) (the "PLRA"). Writing in a published decision, presiding judge Rosemary Barkett explained that "Parzyck demonstrated meticulous respect for the [Florida Department of Correction's] administrative grievance procedures and gave prison officials ample opportunity to respond internally before Dr. Cherry was brought into court." The other members of the panel were judges Beverly Martin and Willis B. Hunt, sitting by designation from the Northern District of Georgia. The court rejected the argument, offered by the State of Florida, that Parzyck could not have exhausted his constitutional claims against Dr. Cherry, because he was transferred to Parzyck's prison during the pendency of the administrative process. The court found that argument "confused the question of Dr. Cherry's liability on the merits of the claim with the separate and distinct question of whether Parzyck exhausted his administrative remedies," noting that the PLRA does not require inmates to name any particular defendant in the administrative grievance. Mr. Parzyck's grievance fulfilled the purposes of the exhaustion requirement, in the words of the court, "by alerting prison officials to the problem and giving them the opportunity to resolve it before being sued."

Parzyck v. Prison Health Services, Inc., No. 09-12483, 2010 WL 5058632 (11th Cir. Dec. 13, 2010)