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Knox v. Mall

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 5, 2017

TED KNOX, # N-92676, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

         This matter was severed on May 31, 2017, from Knox v. Butler, et al., Case No. 17-cv-494-SMY, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 20(b) and 21 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff is an inmate at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), where he is serving a life sentence. His pro se action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The dental deliberate indifference claim severed into this case was designated as Count 5 in the original action, and is described as follows:

Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious dental needs, against Mall, Laing, Marshall, Chatten, Tripp, Williams, Gregson, Megee, Osemeyer, Ron, Oswald, Suzy, Martha, Brenda, Keisha, Shellby, Nurse John Doe #3, Lee, McWilliams, Lashbrooks, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., for denying and delaying care for Knox's abscessed and infected tooth, in April and May 2017.

         (Doc. 1, p. 6). The portion of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 2) setting forth the facts relevant to this claim is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Along with the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction (Doc. 3), which seeks an order requiring Defendants to provide care for Plaintiff's mouth infection.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         Count 5 of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 2)

         This claim arose on April 23, 2017. (Doc. 2, pp. 19-39). Plaintiff began having problems with one of his front teeth, and submitted a request for urgent dental care. Plaintiff takes insulin shots and oral medication (Metformin) for diabetes twice each day, and takes blood pressure medication daily. (Doc. 2, p. 19). Over the next several days, Plaintiff's tooth became very painful when he tried to eat, talk, or brush his teeth. The pain caused him to lose sleep, and interfered with his daily activities. His breath became very bad due to his inability to brush his teeth normally. Plaintiff's mouth became infected and he was spitting out blood and pus daily. (Doc. 2, p. 20). The tooth became loose and was dangling in his mouth. On April 30, 2017, Plaintiff woke up around 2:00 a.m. to find blood all over his pillow. He submitted another medical request for urgent dental care. Id.

         Over the ensuing weeks, Plaintiff submitted additional medical requests as his condition deteriorated. His mouth continued to leak blood and pus constantly. His pain got worse every time he tried to eat, talk, or brush his other teeth. Plaintiff showed his dangling tooth and described his symptoms to numerous nurses who came to his cell, and he asked them for pain medication.

         These nurses, each of whom refused to help Plaintiff or give him anything for his pain, include Shellby (on April 30 and May 10, 13, and 15, 2017), Laing (on May 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, and 16, 2017), Tripp (on May 5, 2017), Martha (on May 5, 6, and 12, 2017), Brenda (on May 6 and 14, 2017), Mall (on May 6 and 17, 2017), Chatten (on May 7 and 9, 2017), Marshall (on May 7 and 14, 2017), Megee (on May 7, 10, and 14, 2017), Keisha (on May 8, 11, 16, and 17, 2017), Suzy (on May 8, 2017), Ron (on May 9, 2017), John Doe #3 (on May 12, 2017), Gregson (on May 12, 2017), and Williams (on May 17, 2017). (Doc. 2, pp. 20-29).

         Nurse Ron told Plaintiff that Wexford and the State were on a budget, and offered to bring pliers to yank out the tooth. (Doc. 2, p. 24). On May 8, 2017, Plaintiff asked Lt. Lee for help to get medical/dental treatment, but Lee refused to take any action. (Doc. 2, p. 23). On May 9, 2017, Nurse Chatten told Plaintiff that “nothing would happen until lock-down was over.” (Doc. 2, p. 23).

         On or about May 10, 2017, Plaintiff wrote an emergency grievance to Warden Lashbrooks over the denial of dental care, but he never received a response. (Doc. 2, pp. 25, 31). On May 13, 2017, after Plaintiff requested a crisis team, he was taken to see McWilliams (mental health staff). Plaintiff told McWilliams about his pain and dangling tooth, for which he had been seeking care since April 23. McWilliams promised he would make a referral to the dentist, but failed to do so. (Doc. 2, p. 27).

         On May 14, 2017, the prison lockdown was ended and some inmates began receiving dental call passes for teeth cleaning. However, Plaintiff was not called to the dentist. Id.

         On May 15, 2017, Laing told Plaintiff she had heard about the grievance Plaintiff filed on her, and knew about his lawsuit against Butler, but she didn't care who Plaintiff cried to, because “she is covered.” (Doc. 2, p. 28). Later that day and the following day, Laing refused again to give Plaintiff any pain medication.

         On May 18, 2017, the pain from Plaintiff's abscess increased. Shortly thereafter, the tooth completely broke off and he started bleeding profusely. (Doc. 2, p. 29). Plaintiff was rushed to the Health Care Unit, where a dental assistant applied gauze to stop the bleeding. Osemeyer (dentist) told Plaintiff that he would never be placed on an emergency call line for dental care and would remain at the back of the line, as long as Plaintiff kept those teeth in his mouth. Id. Plaintiff asked for a partial to replace the missing tooth, and an MRI to determine the severity of the infection. Osemeyer responded that he wasn't about to waste Wexford's money, and said the only treatment Plaintiff would get was to have all his teeth extracted. Plaintiff did receive antibiotics to treat the abscess, and ibuprofen for the pain. (Doc. 2, pp. 29-30).

         On May 19, 2017, Shellby told Plaintiff that he “would regret writing a grievance on her.” (Doc. 2, p. 30).

         Plaintiff's pending motion for preliminary injunction (Doc. 3), seeks testing and/or treatment for his ongoing mouth infection and abscess. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the violation of his constitutional rights. (Doc. 2, p. 32).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on Plaintiff's allegations under Count 5 in the First Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to further divide the claims in this pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other ...

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