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Riiss v. Newbold

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 12, 2016

SHAWN RIIS, Plaintiff,


          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Shawn Riis is currently incarcerated at the Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner, Illinois, but was previously incarcerated at the Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Proceeding pro se, Riis has filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that some of the medical staff at Menard and the private contractor that employs them were deliberately indifferent to his dental needs. (Id. at 5-11.) Riis seeks money damages and injunctive relief in the form of dental treatment. (Id. at 12.)

         This matter is before the Court for a review of Riis' Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court shall review a “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a government entity.” During the § 1915A review, the court “shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim” or if it “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune.”


         According to Riis' Complaint, Riis began his incarceration at Menard as early as 2013. (Doc. 1 at 5.) In August 2013, he began complaining to Menard dental staff that he was in urgent need of dentures. (Id.) He saw an unknown dentist at the prison around that time who told him that Menard did not provide denture services to inmates. (Id.) Riis had the opportunity to see yet another unknown dentist at Menard on June 30, 2015. (Id.) He asked that dentist for dentures as well and was told the same thing-that Menard did not provide dentures. (Id.)

         On August 18, 2015, Riis went to see Dr. Asselmeier and an unspecified dental assistant for a two-year dental checkup. (Id.) When Riis arrived in the office, Dr. Asselmeier and the dental assistant asked Riis why he filed a grievance concerning his dental care. (Id.) Riis told them that he had been attempting to get dentures for two years and that he was having trouble eating and was experiencing severe pain and gum swelling, largely because he was missing four teeth. (Id.) Dr. Asselmeier told Riis that he was on a waiting list for dentures, but that the waiting list was very long and he was not sure how long it would take for Riis to get treatment. (Id. at 6.) Riis asked Dr. Asselmeier for pain medications or other care in the interim as his gums were often swollen and bleeding, but Asselmeier seemingly declined his requests, telling Riis that he will receive care when his name “comes up.” (Id.)

         On October 5, 2015, Riis spoke with Dr. Steven Newbold, another dentist at Menard. (Id. at 7.) Riis told Dr. Newbold that he was missing four teeth and that he had been trying to obtain dentures for a few years. Dr. Newbold responded that it was very difficult to get seen for dentures because of the long waiting list at Menard. (Id.) Riis also told Dr. Newbold that he was suffering from swollen and bleeding gums and that he had great difficulty eating certain foods, but Newbold responded that all Riis could do was wait for treatment. (Id.) Riis asked Newbold to give him pain medication while he waited on the denture list, but Newbold responded that Riis would get that kind of treatment when he received dentures. (Id. at 8.) In his Complaint, Riis asks the Court to order prison officials to provide him with dentures or to otherwise treat his pain. This suggests that he still has not received treatment at Menard. (Id. at 12.)

         Riis claims that he wrote grievances concerning his dental needs to prison officials and also wrote letters about his inadequate dental care to Wexford Health Sources, the private company that contracts with the State of Illinois to provide medical and dental services to state prisoners. (Id. at 4 & 10.) At an unspecified point, Riis was also told by a director that his denture care was being managed pursuant to Wexford's dental policies at Menard. (Id. at 9-10.) Unsatisfied with officials' responses, he filed suit in this Court. (Id. at 1.)


         Throughout his Complaint, Riis refers to the conduct of individuals not named in his caption or his defendant list. Specifically, he states that an unknown dentist saw him at Menard in August 2013, that another unknown dentist saw him at Menard in June 2015 and that an unknown dental assistant was present during his appointment with Dr. Asselmeier in August 2015. Because these parties are not listed in the caption of the case or in Riis' defendant list by name or by Doe designation, they will not be treated as defendants in this case. Any claims against them should be considered dismissed without prejudice. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (defendants must be “specif[ied] in the caption”).

         Turning to the substantive allegations in Riis's Complaint, the Court finds it proper to divide the claims into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by the Court. The Court will conduct a preliminary review of each of these counts in turn.

COUNT 1: Dr. Asselmeier was deliberately indifferent to Riis' dental needs from August 2015 to at least September 2016, and Dr. Newbold was deliberately indifferent to Riis' dental needs from October 2015 to at least September 2016, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
COUNT 2: Wexford Health Sources is constitutionally liable for the failures in Riis' dental care at Menard from August 2015 to at least September 2016.

         Coun ...

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