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Bentz v. Bledsol,

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 26, 2013

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, # S-03210, Plaintiff,
LIEUTENANT BLEDSOL, et al., Defendants.


G. PATRICK MURPHY, District Judge.

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he is serving a life sentence for murder. He has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison officials have denied him treatment for a serious dental condition. His complaint names 15 known Defendants as well as a number of Unknown (John/Jane Doe) Defendants. Many of the Defendants are employed at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") and Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), where Plaintiff had been confined before his transfer to Menard.

Plaintiff claims that since October 2010 he has suffered from a painfully swollen tooth which ultimately developed into an abscess (Doc. 1, p. 5). As of May 2013, the abscessed area had worsened to the extent that Plaintiff's neck was obviously swollen and visibly bruised as a result of the infection (Doc. 1, p. 7). By June 10, 2013, Plaintiff had trouble swallowing because of this condition, was unable to eat or sleep normally because of the pain, and had even lost weight (Doc. 1, p. 8-9). Plaintiff made repeated requests for medical attention to the Stateville, Pontiac, and Menard Defendants, but has yet to receive any treatment for this serious and painful condition.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A to identify Plaintiff's cognizable claims.

The Complaint

Plaintiff was given a medical call pass on October 28, 2010, to see Defendant Dr. Ghosh, the medical director at Stateville (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff asked for pain medication and a referral for dental treatment (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Ghosh refused to give Plaintiff anything for pain relief, but made the dental referral (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Luce, the dentist at Stateville, then delayed and postponed Plaintiff's dental visit to have his cavity filled until May 2011; however, this appointment never occurred (Doc. 1, p. 5). Instead, in May 2011, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant John/Jane Doe #1, a dentist at Stateville, for a bi-annual exam, [1] and Plaintiff was not given any medication or treatment for his "obviously swollen" and chronically painful tooth. The dentist scheduled him for a visit in August 2011, and told him the tooth (or teeth) would be pulled at that time if they were ready, because "they do not do fillings" (Doc. 1, p. 6).[2] In the interim, Plaintiff requested Stateville Defendants Franklin-a correctional officer, Hosselton-a counselor, Bishop-a counselor, Hardy-chief administrator/warden, and Ghosh-the medical director, to help him get dental care, but none of them did anything to assist him (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On July 27, 2011, Plaintiff was transferred from Stateville to Pontiac (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant John/Jane Doe #4, a dentist at Pontiac, reviewed Plaintiff's dental records the next day and noted he needed treatment, but did not examine him (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff saw Defendant Tillden, the medical director at Pontiac, on August 27, 2011 for a different medical issue, and Plaintiff also requested pain medication for his tooth, and asked to be put in for dental treatment (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Tillden refused to assist Plaintiff with either matter (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff continued to put in request slips for dental treatment, but never got any response or dental appointment while at Pontiac (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On November 2, 2011, Plaintiff was transferred from Pontiac to Menard (Doc. 1, p. 6). The next day, Defendant John/Jane Doe #3, the dentist at Menard, reviewed his medical charts and X-rays, but failed to schedule him for any dental treatment despite the documentation of his need for care (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff continued to submit requests for dental care just as he had done at the previous institutions (Doc. 1, p. 7). He was not seen by a dentist until May 22, 2013, when his time came again for his bi-annual checkup (Doc. 1, p. 7). Defendants Jane Doe #2, a dental assistant at Menard, and Stelfor, a dentist at Menard, examined Plaintiff, and he asked them to treat him for the abscessed tooth (Doc. 1, p. 7). At that time, his neck was swollen and bruised (Doc. 1, p. 7). Defendants Jane Doe #2 and Stelfor told him nothing was wrong with his teeth, he only needed a cleaning, and he would have to wait until he was released to get his teeth fixed (Doc. 1, p. 7). As noted above, Plaintiff is serving a life sentence, making him ineligible for release.

Plaintiff submitted an emergency grievance requesting dental care to Menard Chief Administrator Harrington[3] on June 7, 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 31-32). Harrington decided the grievance would not be treated as an emergency (Doc. 1, p. 31). Over the next several days, Plaintiff requested other Menard Defendants to help him get medical attention, to no avail. Twice, he requested help from Defendant Jane Doe #5, a nurse at Menard, explaining he was in chronic pain from the swollen area, but she did nothing and told him he would just have to suffer (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff also showed Defendant Sadler, a correctional officer at Menard, his swelling and bruising; Defendant Sadler expressed sympathy and concern for the abscessed tooth, but did nothing further (Doc, 1, p. 8). Similarly, Plaintiff stopped Defendant Lair, a correctional officer at Menard, in passing and asked for help because he was having trouble swallowing (Doc, 1, p. 8). Defendant Lair told him to take some over-the-counter pain medication, and he could not do anything for Plaintiff (Doc, 1, p. 8). Plaintiff also informed Defendant John Doe #6, a medical technician at Menard, and Defendants Berner, Bledsol, and Torville, correctional officers at Menard of his condition, but they did nothing (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

Plaintiff asserts claims for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, civil conspiracy, denial of access to the grievance process, and a state law claim for negligence (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). In addition to money damages, he requests injunctive relief for immediate care for his abscessed tooth and chronic pain (Doc. 1, p. 28).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action:

Count 1: Deliberate indifference to serious dental needs, against Stateville medical provider Defendants Ghosh, Luce, and John/Jane Doe #1 (dentist); against Pontiac medical provider Defendants Tillden and John/Jane Doe #4 (dentist); against Menard medical provider Defendants Stelfor, Jane Doe #2 (dental assistant), John/Jane Doe #3 (dentist), Jane Doe #5 ...

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