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Alvarado v. Sandhu

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 28, 2014

MATTHEW ALVARADO, # B-17199, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, S.A. GODINEZ, WEXFORD HEALTH SERVICES, DR. FURLONG, DR. LARSON, and DR. SANDHU, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Matthew Alvarado, an inmate in Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("Big Muddy"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have refused to provide him dentures for over two years, which has made it difficult for him to eat and caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort. ( See Doc. 1). Plaintiff asserts claims under the Eighth Amendment, as well as Illinois state law. In addition to his complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and/or an order for preliminary injunction (Doc. 5) and a memorandum of law in support of the motion (Doc. 6). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and immediate injunctive relief.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). The motions for temporary and preliminary injunctive relief will be considered in conjunction with the requisite preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.[1]

The Complaint

Plaintiff entered the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") on May 8, 2012. (Doc. 1, p. 5). At that time, Plaintiff did not have any teeth, nor did he have dentures. ( Id. ) Prior to his incarceration, Plaintiff had been fitted for dentures, but he was unable to retrieve them before being taken into custody. ( Id. ) While at the Stateville Receiving Center, he was seen by a dentist who told him that he would be able to get dentures once he was placed at a correctional facility. Plaintiff was then sent to Dixon Correctional Center ("Dixon") where he submitted several requests to see the dentist. ( Id. ) However, before he was able to be seen by a dentist at Dixon, he was transferred to Big Muddy on August 1, 2012.

Upon his arrival at Big Muddy, Plaintiff immediately submitted a request to see a dentist, but was not seen until February 22, 2013. ( Id. ) It is unclear from the pleadings what transpired at this appointment, but it appears that Plaintiff's dental issues continued. After submitting several more requests to see the dentist due to the pain and difficulty Plaintiff was having with chewing, Plaintiff was seen again on June 13, 2013 by Defendant Furlong, a dentist employed by Defendant Wexford Health Services, Inc. ("Wexford"). Furlong explained to Plaintiff that IDOC's dental policy requires inmates who enter IDOC with no teeth to pay a $250 lab fee to get dentures. ( Id. at 6). Plaintiff explained that he was indigent and had no one who could help him pay the fees. Furlong maintained that there was nothing he could do, but he told Plaintiff that he could request medical approval for dentures from one of the medical doctors. ( Id. ) Furlong also refused to prescribe any pain medication, despite Plaintiff's insistence that chewing caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort.

Following this appointment, Plaintiff filed a grievance on June 13, 2013 regarding Defendant Furlong's denial of Plaintiff's request for dentures. The grievance was denied on August 22, 2013 and stated, "Per policy offenders who are admitted in I.D.O.C. without teeth are responsible for the cost of Dentures unless otherwise determined by a Medical Doctor. There is currently no documentation in offender's Medical File ordering Dentures from a Medical Doctor."[2] ( Id., Ex. B). Plaintiff subsequently filed an appeal with the Administrative Review Board. ( Id., Ex. C). In a response dated April 25, 2014, Plaintiff's appeal was denied on the grounds that "the issue was appropriately addressed by the facility Administration" and Plaintiff's request for "monetary compensation" was "beyond the scope of this office." ( Id. ) Defendant Godinez, Director of IDOC, signed the report and concurred with the Board's decision.

While Plaintiff's grievance was on appeal, Plaintiff continued experiencing problems related to his lack of teeth and inability to properly chew his food. (Doc. 5, p. 4). He made several requests to see a dentist and was finally seen by Defendant Sandhu, a dentist employed by Defendant Wexford, on March 4, 2014. Defendant Sandhu advised Plaintiff that he would have to pay for the dentures. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff again explained that he was indigent and had no ability to pay. There is a note in Plaintiff's medical records dated March 11, 2014, which states that Defendant Sandhu had called to inquire about the facility's policy regarding payment of dentures for indigent inmates. (Doc. 1, Ex. E). The note is not entirely decipherable, but it appears that Defendant Sandhu requested that someone be consulted on the matter. The note further states that it was suggested that a dentist or Defendant Larsen (a medical doctor) obtain weight checks on Plaintiff. ( Id. ) No follow-up is noted. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Sandhu recently told Plaintiff that he would order Plaintiff dentures if he had enough time to process them, but he was unable to given Plaintiff's September 30, 2014 release date from IDOC. (Doc. 5, p. 4).

Plaintiff further asserts that after submitting several sick call requests, he was seen by Defendant Larson, a medical doctor employed by Defendant Wexford, on March 13, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff informed Defendant Larson of the problems he was having (inability to chew properly, headaches, bleeding gums, and sores in his mouth) and again requested dentures. Despite these problems, Defendant Larson refused to recommend dentures for Plaintiff or to provide Plaintiff with any pain medications. ( Id. ) He also refused to place Plaintiff on a soft foods diet, instead insisting that "the food in the chow hall is soft enough." ( Id. at 9).

Discussion

Based on the allegations and claims in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to frame Plaintiff's claims as follows:

Count 1: Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Count 2: Defendants Wexford, Furlong, Larson, and Sandhu's failure to provide Plaintiff with dentures and pain medication constitutes medical ...

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