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Williams v. Garnett

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 28, 2017

MARCUS WILLIAMS, # K-66931, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“BMRCC”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious dental condition. He also asserts state law tort claims. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         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 the Complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to § 1915A. However, Plaintiff shall be allowed an opportunity to amend his pleading.

         The Complaint

         According to the Complaint, on July 16, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by “the Wexford medical providers Dental staff, ” and was told that his tooth #14 needed to be pulled. (Doc. 1, p. 5). However, the dentist extracted tooth #13 and left #14 alone. Plaintiff put in a number of grievances over the extraction of the wrong tooth. Following this error, Plaintiff has suffered pain from tooth #14 and his infected gum, which prevents him from sleeping and eating. The infected area caused a terrible odor in Plaintiff's mouth. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff complained to “Administration” about the inadequate treatment, from September 2016 through November 2016. After these complaints, he received a call pass about the problem. (Doc. 1, p. 6). The Complaint does not disclose whether tooth #14 was eventually pulled or whether Plaintiff may have received follow-up treatment for his infection and pain.

         Based on these facts, Plaintiff asserts a claim for deliberate indifference against Isaacs (Health Care Administrator), the Unknown Party Dentist, and Wexford Services, Inc., which employs the BMRCC dental staff. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). He also claims these Defendants engaged in “negligence and malpractice.” (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         An examination of the documents Plaintiff filed along with the Complaint sheds a bit more light on the sequence of events. In Plaintiff's grievance dated September 1, 2016, he states that he saw a dentist at Sheridan Correctional Center in July 2015, because of pain in tooth #14. (Doc. 1-2, p. 6). On November 21, 2015, the dentist told Plaintiff he did not want to fill tooth #14 due to fear of hitting the nerve, and recommended tooth #14 be extracted. Id. Later, at BMRCC on September 1, 2016, Plaintiff went to have the tooth extracted, but the dentist pulled the wrong tooth. The counselor's response written on this grievance states that an x-ray showed deep decay in tooth #13, and Plaintiff consented to have that tooth pulled. Id. Plaintiff filed another grievance on September 2, 2016 (Doc. 1-2, p. 7), which relates the same sequence of events, but specifies that the dentist extracted tooth #13, when it was tooth #14 that should have been pulled. Plaintiff stated at that time that he continued to experience discomfort with tooth #14. (Doc. 1-2, p. 8).

         Plaintiff includes the grievance officer's response to his complaints, which states that “On 9-29-16 dental was consulted about tooth #14, ” which also showed deep decay but could be filled. (Doc. 1-2, p. 9). Plaintiff “was seen on September 26, 2016, and signed a refusal to have the tooth [#14] filled.” Id.

         On January 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed another grievance, which states that tooth #14 is causing him “daily pain and suffering.” (Doc. 1-2, p. 10). He asked for tooth #14 to be pulled immediately, because it was infected and interfered with his ability to eat. The counselor's response directed Plaintiff to “follow proper procedure and contact dental about tooth.” Id. Plaintiff wrote a response, stating that he did not sign a refusal on September 26, 2016, for treatment of tooth #14, and wanted it to be pulled as it was originally scheduled. (Doc. 1-2, p. 11). The February 2017 response to this grievance directed Plaintiff to follow the nurse sick call and referral process. (Doc. 1-2, p. 12).

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9).

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

          Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the 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 claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1:
Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's dental needs, for extracting the wrong tooth (#13) and then for delaying and/or failing to provide ...

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