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Cook v. Overall

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 2, 2017

MICHAEL J. COOK, M18612, Plaintiff,



         This is a prisoner civil rights lawsuit involving dental care. Plaintiff Michael Cook is an inmate within the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) prison system and the incidents that give rise to this litigation occurred at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Cook asserts that in 2011 through 2013 the Defendants provided him with inadequate treatment for his incoming wisdom teeth. Defendant Dr. Henderson is a dentist employed by IDOC. Defendants Dr. Overall and Dr. Newbold are dentists employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”). Wexford is a contractor that provides healthcare services to IDOC inmates. Cook initially filed suit pro se but he has since been recruited counsel. All three Defendants now seek summary judgment. (Docs. 57 and 59). The motions are opposed. (Docs. 61 and 62). The Wexford Defendants also filed a reply (Doc. 63) to Cook's response in opposition. For the following reasons, the motions for summary judgment are hereby granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         When presented with a motion for summary judgment, all factual disputes and reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party (i.e., Cook). United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962). With that standard in mind, we turn to the facts of the case. Cook was born in 1990 and he entered IDOC custody in early 2011.[1] (Cook Deposition, Doc. 58-1, p. 5). Shortly thereafter he was placed at Menard. (Doc. 58-1, p. 6). Sometime around May or June of 2011, Cook's bottom left wisdom tooth started to come in. (Doc. 58-1, p. 8). As a result, he began to experience pain and discomfort. Id. Cook submitted request slips to be seen at the prison Health Care Unit (“HCU”), and on June 22, 2011 he was examined by Dr. Overall, a dentist at Menard. (Doc. 58-1, p. 10).[2] Cook told Dr. Overall that his tooth was causing him pain, headaches and that he thought it should be pulled. (Doc. 58-1, p. 13) . Dr. Overall observed Cook's teeth and told him that his wisdom tooth was cutting through the gum. (Doc. 58-1, p. 14).[3] Dr. Overall provided Cook with some pain medication and antibiotics and told him to gargle with salt water. Id. She also told Cook to submit another request slip if he would like to have the tooth pulled. Id. Cook then left the HCU and had no further interaction with Dr. Overall.

         Cook's next dental examination occurred 16 months later on October 25, 2012. (Doc. 58-1, p. 18). After submitting multiple request slips (Cook states in a grievance form that he submitted at least four or five, see Doc. 1-1, p. 73), Cook was examined by Dr. Henderson on this date. Id. Dr. Henderson's medical records from the examination note that Cook complained that his gum was sore and that “I need my tooth out.” (Doc. 58-2, p. 3). Dr. Henderson observed, “#17 [tooth] partially erupted … tissue red / swollen no drainage [.]” He diagnosed the tooth as “Pericornitic” [sic]. Id. Dr. Henderson notes under “P” (Plan) that he will “start referral for on site oral surgery #17.” Id. He also issued Cook prescriptions for Amoxicillin and Motrin (ibuprofen). Id. On November 6, 2012 Dr. Newbold examined Cook.[4] (Doc. 58-1, p. 19). Cook explained the tooth problems he was having to Dr. Newbold, and Dr. Newbold told Cook that he was going to refer him to an oral surgeon. (Doc. 58-1, p. 21). On November 9, 2012 “Pan Oral X-rays” were taken. (Doc. 58-2, p. 3). There was no further dental treatment until the following year.

         Wexford approved the oral surgeon referral and on January 9, 2013 the oral surgeon, Dr. Craig, performed an “operculectomy.” (Doc. 58-4, p. 2). Dr. Newbold states in an affidavit attached to his motion for summary judgment:

An operculectomy is a procedure wherein local anesthesia is applied and a split is placed in the gum over an emerging tooth to assist the tooth in emerging. Dr. Craig wrote orders for Motrin and Penicillin at the conclusion of the procedure. It is customary to wait some period of time after the performance of an operculectomy to watch the emerging tooth come in and see if it going to cause problems. Operculectomy procedures are often performed before resorting to tooth extraction as wisdom tooth extraction can cause damage to the nerves that control movement and sensation in the lips.

Id. Following the procedure, Dr. Craig provided Cook with some antibiotics and painkillers. (Doc. 58-1, p. 23).

         The operculectomy was not as successful as they had hoped, and Cook continued to experience pain and discomfort from the tooth. Cook was later scheduled for a follow up appointment with Dr. Henderson on March 14, 2013. (Doc. 58-1, p. 24). Due to the prison being on lockdown, the examination was delayed until March 18. Id. At the examination Cook told Dr. Henderson that he was still experiencing problems with the wisdom tooth and that he was in a great deal of pain. (Doc. 58-1, p. 25). Dr. Henderson provided him with more medication (antibiotics and painkillers), and made another request to have Cook seen by an oral surgeon. Id.

         Wexford approved the referral (see Doc. 58-2, p. 8), and on April 4, 2013, Cook's wisdom tooth was pulled by Dr. Swanson, an off-site oral surgeon. (Doc. 58-2, p. 9). Cook returned to Menard and later that day he underwent a follow up examination by Dr. Henderson. (Doc. 58-2, p. 5). Dr. Henderson's notes state; “4/4/13 [at] 2:30 PM[.] Exam - Pt. returned from Dr. Swanson's office. Had #17 removed. Pt. doing well (still numb) - Rx Motrin 200mg x 48 [and] Amoxicillin 500mg x 30[.] Eval 1 wk.” Id. On April 11, 2013 Dr. Henderson removed a suture from the site of the (now pulled) wisdom tooth. Id. Dr. Henderson also noted that Cook was “healing W.N.L.” (within normal limits) and “doing well.” Id.

         Defendants Dr. Overall and Dr. Newbold submitted affidavits with their motion for summary judgment. Dr. Overall states in her affidavit that she only provided dental services to Cook on June 22, 2011. (Doc. 58-3, p. 2). At the examination Cook complained of pain from an incoming wisdom tooth. Id. Dr. Overall states that Cook actually complained of pain in his lower right wisdom tooth, and not the lower left. Id. At the conclusion of the examination she prescribed Motrin and Penicillin, and told Cook to “contact the dental department again if his problems persisted.” Id. She also states in her affidavit:

Emerging wisdom teeth can cause some pain and discomfort, though it can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medications and antibiotics. Wisdom teeth do not “automatically” need to be extracted as, after they have fully emerged, many cause no problems whatsoever. It is customary to observe the emerging tooth and look for problems. Wisdom teeth are generally only extracted if they are, in fact, causing problems. There is no need to extract them if they are not causing problems.

(Doc. 58-3, pp. 2-3). Finally, Dr. Overall notes that, “[a]fter the June 22, 2011 examination, Mr. Cook had no contact with the Dental Department for more than 16 months.” (Doc. 58-3, p. 2).

         Dr. Newbold states in his affidavit that he has been the chief dentist at Menard since March 1, 2012. (Doc. 58-4, p. 1). Dr. Newbold disputes Cook's deposition testimony and states that he “never personally examined Cook nor spoke directly with him.” Id. Dr. Newbold also states in his affidavit that he processed the paperwork for Cook to be referred to the oral surgeons. (Doc. 58-4, p. 2). Wexford utilizes a “collegial review” process where individual healthcare practitioners must receive corporate approval before sending inmates to see specialists, have surgeries performed, etc. Id. Both of Cook's oral surgeon visits went through the collegial review approval process. Id. Dr. Newbold notes ...

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