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Jones v. Jansen

September 24, 2010

SEAN JONES, #K-58210, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHNNIE JANSEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sean Jones, an inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

FACTS ALLEGED

Jones was examined by Defendant Jansen on September 23, 2008, regarding a cracked, broken tooth. Jansen prescribed some pain medication but did nothing else. As detailed in the complaint, Jones returned to the health care unit numerous times from September 2008 through October 2009 regarding this broken tooth. Jansen attempted to pull the tooth, without success, and Jones was given minimal pain medication. Jones filed a grievance over this matter, which was denied in turn by Defendants Feazel and Rodert.

CLAIMS PRESENTED

Based on this ongoing situation, Jones asserts that Jansen was deliberately indifferent to his dental needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment; that guarantee encompasses a prisoner's right to medical care. It is well established that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) (quotation marks and citation omitted). This principle applies equally to dental care. Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 440 (7th Cir. 2010). But negligence, even gross negligence, does not violate the Constitution. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06, 97 S.Ct. 285; Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009). Only deliberate indifference or worse in the face of a serious medical need will do. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103-04, 97 S.Ct. 285; Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008). A delay in treatment may constitute deliberate indifference if the delay exacerbated the injury or unnecessarily prolonged an inmate's pain. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05, 97 S.Ct. 285; Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 619 (7th Cir. 2010); Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 832 (7th Cir. 2007). McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 640 (7th Cir. 2010).

Jones has set forth a plausible account of the facts showing how much delay he experienced in getting his broken tooth pulled (at least one year), that he frequently sought treatment from Jansen, and what the consequences were of inaction. "Delay is not a factor that is either always, or never, significant. Instead, the length of delay that is tolerable depends on the seriousness of the condition and the ease of providing treatment." Id. At this time, the Court is unable to dismiss this claim against Jansen.

The same does not hold true for his claims against Feazel and Rodert. Jones seems to think that any prison employee who knows (or should know) about his problems has a duty to fix those problems. That theory is in direct conflict with the well-established rule that "public employees are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else's." Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). See also Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 ...


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