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Ford v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois

March 24, 2015

JIMMIE L. FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., LILLIAN OVERALL, and SAMANTHA HAGENE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Jimmie Ford is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections at Menard Correctional Center. He filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 11, 2013, alleging that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious dental needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. More specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to treat his broken tooth for approximately ten months despite his numerous requests for dental care. This matter is currently before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Lillian Overall and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Doc. 82) and the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Samantha Hagene (Doc. 85). The Court has carefully considered the briefs and all of the evidence submitted by the parties, and for the reasons set forth below, the motions are granted.

Background

Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) is a private corporation that contracts with the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) to provide dental services to inmates detained in IDOC facilities. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Defendant Lillian Overall was employed by Wexford as a dentist at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Defendant Samantha Hagene was employed by the State of Illinois as a dental hygienist at Menard.

Under Wexford’s policies, inmates must be examined by a dentist every two years (Doc. 83-5, p. 3). If an inmate needs other dental care, he can request it by submitting a sick call request to the dental department, or by contacting his gallery officer, work supervisor, line officer, or any staff member (Id.; Doc. 98, p. 3). Inmates are then scheduled for treatment according to the severity of the complaint (Doc. 83-5, p. 3). The receptionist in the dental department is responsible for scheduling inmate appointments, not the dentists or the hygienists (Doc. 83-2; Doc. 86-2).

It is undisputed that inmates experiencing a dental emergency (as defined by the staff dentist) are given top scheduling priority, and they must receive a dental exam no later than the next working day after the emergency occurs (Doc. 98, pp. 4–5, 8, 9). Examples of emergency situations include severe pain, bleeding, swelling, or acute infection (Id. at pp. 4–5, 9). For non-emergency or specific, routine dental care, the service must be scheduled, but not necessarily performed, within fourteen days of the request (Doc. 98, p. 4). For all other dental care, the inmate must be examined by dental personnel within fourteen days of the request, unless the offender is already scheduled for treatment or service regarding the same request (Id.).

In this case, Plaintiff underwent a two-year exam on July 22, 2010 (Doc. 83-3, p. 1). At that exam, it was determined that Plaintiff had a cavity, and he was added to the filling list as well as the teeth cleaning list (Id.; Doc. 83-1, p. 6).[1] As best Plaintiff remembers, the cavity was in his number 12 tooth (Doc. 83-1, p. 6).[2] Nearly eleven months went by, and Plaintiff was not seen for either a filling or a teeth cleaning (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1). On June 14, 2011, Plaintiff’s number 12 tooth broke (Doc. 83-1, p. 5). Plaintiff claims that he experienced “excruciating” pain and had a “little bit” of bleeding and some puffiness on the upper left side of his cheek (Doc. 83-1, pp. 6, 14). It is not clear how long the bleeding or swelling lasted.

According to Plaintiff, he submitted a request to see the dentist on the same day that his tooth broke (Doc. 83-1, p. 5; Doc. 97-1, p. 1). He placed his request in the sick call box, but he never received a response, and he was not called to see the dentist. There is no indication that the dental department ever received the June sick call request (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1; Doc. 83-4, p. 2). Plaintiff did not immediately write another request, however, because he thought he was going to see the dentist in July for his “birthday exam” (Doc. 83-1, p. 5).[3] However, he was not seen during the month of July. On August 8, 2011, he wrote a letter addressed to the “Healthcare Dental Department” and placed it in the sick call box (Doc. 83-1, pp. 6–7). In the letter, he stated that he had a broken tooth and was in pain, and he asked to be seen by a dentist as soon as possible (Doc. 83-1, p. 7). There is no indication that the dental department ever received the August letter, and Plaintiff never received a response (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1; Doc. 83-4, p. 2).

Plaintiff apparently heard nothing and saw no one until he was called to the Dental Department on December 5, 2011, for a teeth cleaning (Doc. 83-1, p. 7; Doc. 97-1, p. 2).[4] Per the standard practice, Plaintiff was met in the reception area by Defendant Hagene (Doc. 86-2, pp. 1, 2; see also Doc. 83-1, pp. 7–8). Hagene told Plaintiff that he was there to have his teeth cleaned and asked him to sign the co-pay voucher (Doc. 86-2, p. 1).[5] Plaintiff told Hagene that he wanted to see the dentist because his tooth hurt (Doc. 83-1, p. 7). Hagene responded that Plaintiff could not see the dentist; he could only see her or refuse treatment (Id. at p. 8). He refused to sign the co-payment voucher (Doc. 86-2, p. 2). And, according to Plaintiff, he “created a scene” by audibly yelling “I would like to see a dentist” (Doc. 83-1, p. 8; Doc. 97-1, p. 3). In response to Plaintiff’s yelling, nearby staff came into the reception area, including a correctional officer and Dr. Overall (Doc. 83-1, p. 8). Hagene grabbed Plaintiff’s dental file and told him that he was scheduled for a filling, and Dr. Overall told him that he would be scheduled for an appointment to see a dentist (Id. at p. 8, 9; Doc. 97-1, p. 3). When he asked for pain medication, nobody responded (Doc. 83-1, p. 8; Doc. 97-1, p. 3). The receptionist then told Plaintiff to sign the Medical Services Refusal form, which he did (Id.; Doc. 86-2, p.4). It is undisputed that Plaintiff’s teeth were not examined, and he did not receive any pain medication while he was in the dental department on December 5th (Doc. 86-2; Doc. 83-2)

In the weeks that followed, Plaintiff was not called back in to see the dentist (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1). He claims that he then submitted three or four additional sick call requests, but he did not provide any details regarding the date on which they were submitted, to whom they were addressed, what they said, or how he submitted them (Doc. 83-1, p. 9; Doc. 97-1, p. 3). He also mailed a letter to Dr. Overall on February 24, 2012 (Doc. 83-1, p. 9). In the letter, he explained that he was in pain and asked to be moved up on the list to see the dentist and for pain medication (Id.). There is no indication that the dental department ever received the sick call requests or the letter, and Plaintiff never received a response to any of them (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1; Doc. 83-4, p. 2).

Plaintiff’s dental records indicate that on March 14, 2012, he was added to the list to see a dentist (Doc. 83-2, p. 2; Doc. 83-3, p.1).[6] There is no evidence as to whether Plaintiff was notified of his placement on the list or when he was expected to be seen for that appointment. A week later, Plaintiff submitted a grievance complaining about his broken tooth and asking to see the dentist immediately (Doc. 41-2, p.5). He received a response from the nursing supervisor on March 28, 2012, which stated:

I spoke with dental who informed me that on 12-5-11 you refused to have teeth cleaned. Per your request at that time you were put on the list to be seen for your complaint of broken teeth, but understand once placed on the list, which is very long, you have to wait your turn. If your teeth are now causing you pain . . . I would recommend that you put in a sick call slip to the dentist and let them know you are experiencing pain so that they can arrange to see you sooner if needed.

(Doc. 41-2, p. 8). After receiving that response, Plaintiff testified that he had another inmate, James Munson, hand deliver a sick call request to the dental unit on his behalf (Doc. 83-1, p. 9). There is no indication that the dental department ever received the sick call request, and Plaintiff never received a response (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1; Doc. 83-4, p. 2).

Plaintiff submitted a second grievance on April 2, 2012 (Doc. 41-2, p. 3). Eight days later, his counselor responded with a note from the nursing supervisor stating that she had spoken to the dental department and they had not received any kites from Plaintiff as of April 6, 2012 (Doc. 97-1, pp. 6, 7). If they had received a kite, they would have tried to move his appointment up (Id. at p. 6).

On April 19, 2012, Plaintiff was finally called to the dental department for an examination by Dr. Henderson (see Doc. 83-3, p. 1; Doc. 97-1, p. 4).[7] Defendants made no effort to decipher the illegible portions of the dental records from that exam, but the Court can still make out that Plaintiff’s No. 12 tooth was fractured and sensitive when it was tapped on (Doc. 83-3, p. 1).[8] Plaintiff was diagnosed with “irreversible pulpal hyperemia, ” and after discussing his options, Plaintiff stated that he wanted the tooth extracted (Id.). Plaintiff was prescribed pain medication as well as an antibiotic and scheduled for an extraction of his tooth (Doc. 83-1, p. 10; Doc. 83-3, pp. 1, 4). Seven days later, Plaintiff’s broken tooth was extracted by Dr. Newbold (Doc. 83-3, p. 1.). Plaintiff has not had any issues with tooth pain since the extraction (Doc. 83-1, p. 10).

During much of the time period at issue, Wexford provided one full-time dentist at Menard (Doc. 83-5, p. 2). Wexford admits that under its contract with the IDOC, however, it was required to provide two full-time dentists at Menard (Id.). Wexford was actively trying to fill the vacancy from May 2011 to February 2012 (Id.). The vacancy was listed on Wexford’s career website, Monster.com, Healthcareers.com, and Indeed.com (Id.). Wexford also ran an ...


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