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Willis v. Feinerman

December 10, 2009

WAYNE WILLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADRIAN FEINERMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Wayne Willis, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In this action, Willis seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007).

THE COMPLAINT

In April 2008, Willis alleges he lost two fillings from two teeth. The loss of the fillings caused severe pain. Willis put in a medical request and was seen by Defendant Chapman. Chapman informed him that there was a two to three year wait for fillings because there was not enough dentists to serve the prisoners. Willis wrote a grievance and was seen by Chapman again several weeks later. Chapman offered to pull the affected teeth. Willis refused, and Chapman asked him to sign a refuse treatment form. Willis acknowledge that he refused to have his teeth pulled. Willis wants his teeth filled. He claims he has been in pain since he lost his fillings, that he can no longer chew his food properly and that his teeth are continuing to deteriorate.

The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 897 (1996).

A deliberate indifference claim requires both an objectively serious risk of harm and a subjectively culpable state of mind. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). A deliberate indifference claim premised upon inadequate medical treatment requires, to satisfy the objective element, a medical condition "that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention." Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. The subjective component of a deliberate indifference claim requires that the prison official knew of "a substantial risk of harm to the inmate and disregarded the risk." Id.; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Mere medical malpractice or a disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment is not deliberate indifference. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976); Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653; Estate of Cole by Pardue v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 261 (7th Cir. 1996). Still, a plaintiff's receipt of some medical care does not automatically defeat a claim of deliberate indifference if a fact finder could infer the treatment was "so blatantly inappropriate as to evidence intentional mistreatment likely to seriously aggravate" a medical condition. Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830-31 (7th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, medical indifference claims involving necessary dental care are given special importance by federal courts.

Other circuits have held that adequate dental care constitutes a serious medical need. See, e.g., Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702-03 (2nd Cir. 1998) (reversing dismissal of complaint where inmate's allegations that he suffered from extreme pain, deteriorating teeth, and difficulty with eating, when prison dentists would not fill his cavities, were sufficient to support a serious medical need); Hunt v. Dental Dept., 865 F.2d 198, 200-201 (9th Cir. 1989) (reversing grant of summary judgment for defendants, where inmate denied of his replacement dentures, suffered from breaking teeth, bleeding and infected gums, pain, and weight loss due to an inability to eat, demonstrated a serious dental condition); Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 969 (8th Cir. 1995) ...


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