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Custis v. Davis

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 23, 2017

RYRICKA NIKITA CUSTIS, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
KEITH DAVIS, Warden, Sussex I State Prison; S. EVANS, Records Department Head at Sussex I State Prison; M. WOODRUFF, Medical Department Head at Sussex I State Prison; C. W. LANE, Lt. at Sussex I State Prison, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: December 6, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Norfolk. Mark S. Davis, District Judge. (2:15-cv-00142-MSD-TEM)

         ARGUED:

          Martha Francine Hutton, O'MELVENY & MYERS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Matthew Robert McGuire, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Saul Cohen, O'MELVENY & MYERS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia, Stuart A. Raphael, Solicitor General, Trevor S. Cox, Deputy Solicitor General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and TRAXLER and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

          GREGORY, Chief Judge

         Ryricka Custis was an inmate at Sussex I State Prison. Because he is missing toes on his right foot, the Virginia Department of Corrections medical staff required that Custis be assigned to a bottom bunk in a bottom-tier cell. He originally received a compliant bunk assignment, but was later temporarily moved to an upper-tier cell. He fell and injured himself while ascending the stairs to his upper-tier cell.

         Custis pursued his prison's administrative grievance process, and then filed suit. The district court sua sponte dismissed Custis's complaint on the ground that he failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. For the reasons below, we vacate the district court's dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

         I.

         Because Custis appeals the district court's dismissal for failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies, we first provide an overview of the prison's grievance procedure, to the extent that it is explained in the ...


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