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Williams v. Sheriff of Cook County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 6, 2017

WALTER WILLIAMS and MONTRELL CARR, individually and for a class, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GARY FEINERMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Walter Williams and Montrell Carr, pretrial detainees at Cook County Jail, filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Sheriff of Cook County and Cook County itself, alleging that dental care at the jail is constitutionally inadequate. Doc. 15. They seek injunctive relief, but not damages, for themselves and a putative class. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. 25. The motion is denied.

         Background

         In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the truth of the operative complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must also consider “documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice, ” along with additional facts set forth in Plaintiffs' brief opposing dismissal, so long as those additional facts “are consistent with the pleadings.” Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1020 (7th Cir. 2013). The facts are set forth as favorably to Plaintiffs as those materials allow. See Pierce v. Zoetis, 818 F.3d 274, 277 (7th Cir. 2016). In setting forth those facts at the pleading stage, the court does not vouch for their accuracy. See Jay E. Hayden Found. v. First Neighbor Bank, N.A., 610 F.3d 382, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Plaintiffs are pretrial detainees at Cook County Jail. Doc. 15 at ¶ 2. The jail employed a full-time oral surgeon until 2007. Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. In the oral surgeon's stead, Defendants adopted a policy of sending detainees in need of oral surgery to Stroger Hospital, but that policy is ineffective because they do not provide the resources necessary to transport detainees to the hospital. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. In 2011, the chief of dental services at the jail warned that employing a full-time oral surgeon was “absolutely essential.” Id. at ¶ 15.

         On January 4, 2016, a jail dentist examining Williams, who had complained of dental pain, determined that his pain could have resulted from a fractured tooth, which would require a microscope to diagnose. Id. at ¶ 19. Instead of attempting such a diagnosis, the dentist removed a filling and replaced it with a temporary sedative filling. Ibid. The dentist did not note signs of infection, but prescribed antibiotics anyway. Ibid. Williams's pain persisted, and on January 26, the dentist suggested that he see a different provider. Id. at ¶ 20.

         On March 29, a physician's assistant referred Williams for a priority dental appointment to treat “chronic toothache.” Id. at ¶ 21. On April 13, a dentist prescribed painkillers and another dose of antibiotics. Id. at ¶ 22. During an examination on April 20, Williams asked to have the tooth pulled, but the dentist declined. Id. at ¶ 23. On June 8, Williams received antibiotics and pain medications but again did not have his tooth pulled. Id. at ¶ 26.

         A jail dentist examined Carr in February 2016 due to pain in his wisdom teeth. Id. at ¶¶ 34-35. The dentist told him he needed to see an oral surgeon at Stroger to have the teeth pulled. Id. at ¶ 35. Carr saw the same dentist three or four more times; each time, he received pain medication and was told that his appointment at Stroger was “coming soon.” Id. at ¶ 36. He was never treated by an oral surgeon. Id. at ¶ 37.

         In this suit, Plaintiffs seek “appropriate injunctive relief.” Id. at 8. They have moved to certify these two injunction classes under Rule 23(b)(2):

1. All persons confined at the Cook County Jail who have been referred by a dentist at the Jail for an extraction by an oral surgeon and are experiencing pain while awaiting treatment by an oral surgeon.
2. All persons currently confined at the Cook County Jail who, having complained of dental pain, have been prescribed successive course[s] of treatments with antibiotics without having received the dental procedure required to permanently alleviate the dental pain.

Doc. 30 at 1.

         Discussion

         Defendants press three arguments in their motion to dismiss. ...


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