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McBride v. Chapman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 16, 2014

EDWARD M. McBRIDE, # R-66611, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Edward McBride, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). According to the complaint, Plaintiff was denied corrective dental surgery before he was fit with a denture in 2013. As a result, his upper gum line has a sharp bony ridge that causes "excruciating" pain and suffering. Plaintiff now sues Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"), S. A. Godinez (Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") director), and four Pinckneyville officials (Warden Spiller, Health Care Unit Administrator Brown, Dr. Chapman, and Nurse Little) for denying him adequate dental care under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He seeks monetary damages and dental surgery (Doc. 1, p. 7).

The Complaint

Plaintiff was scheduled to receive dentures in 2013. In preparation, he met with Pinckneyville's dentist, Dr. Chapman, on May 6, 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 6). At the time, Plaintiff had excess bone and an undercut ridge in "area[s] #2, 5, 6, 10, [and] 11." This created a sharp bony ridge along Plaintiff's upper gum line that could "possibly" be corrected through pre-prosthetic surgery. Instead of recommending surgery, however, Dr. Chapman concluded that Plaintiff's gums had healed and were ready for dentures.

The process of making Plaintiff's dentures took three months. In the interim, Plaintiff's condition caused "excruciating" pain. At times, he could not eat because of the discomfort associated with chewing. He also suffered from chronic headaches (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff had trouble accessing pain relievers because Nurse Little allegedly failed to prescribe them. Instead, Plaintiff purchased pain relievers from commissary (Doc. 1, p. 6).

When Plaintiff finally received his dentures on August 14, 2013, they did not fit (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff met with Dr. Chapman for fittings on several occasions (Doc. 1, p. 6). Each time, Dr. Chapman resorted to sanding and grinding the dentures down. In the process, Dr. Chapman allegedly destroyed the ready-made dentures. Along with the complaint, Plaintiff filed numerous complaints, grievances, and affidavits, in which he complains of the pain caused by the sharp bony ridgeline, his ill-fitting dentures, and his lack of access to pain medication; these complaints extend through November 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 9-22).

Plaintiff now sues Dr. Chapman and Nurse Little for violating his right to receive adequate dental care under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He also names Defendants Spiller, Godinez, Brown, and Wexford, claiming that they "all knew of this serious dental... situation" and took no action. He seeks monetary damages and dental surgery.

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).

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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). When reviewing the allegations in light of this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under § 1915A.


Count 1 - Eighth Amendment Dental Claim

The complaint articulates a colorable Eighth Amendment dental claim (Count 1) against Defendants Chapman, Little, and Spiller (in his official capacity only). The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment and is applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. See Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435 (7th Cir. 2010). Relevant to Plaintiff's claim, 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); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). To establish liability, a prisoner must show that the: (1) medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) state officials acted with deliberate indifference to the prisoner's health or safety, which is a subjective standard. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001).

The Seventh Circuit has indicated that a dental condition may constitute a serious medical need. Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469 (7th Cir. 2005). According to the Seventh Circuit, "dental care is one of the most important medical needs of inmates." Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Examples of "objectively serious" dental needs involve circumstances in which the failure to treat a dental condition causes an inmate to suffer an array of problems, such as headaches, extreme pain, bleeding, infected gums, and ...

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