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Smith v. Overall

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 13, 2017

NATHANIEL J. SMITH, #M50212, Plaintiff,
v.
LILLIAN OVERALL and C. SCHULZE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Nathaniel Smith, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”), brings this civil rights action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). According to the Complaint, Plaintiff suffered from a toothache associated with a broken tooth for three months at Vandalia. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff claims that the delay in treatment violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Id. He now sues the prison's dentist (Doctor Lillian Overall) and a counselor (C. Schulze) for monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, [1] which provides:

         (a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

         (b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The Complaint survives preliminary review.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffered from a broken tooth during his incarceration at Vandalia in 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 8). The prison's dentist, Doctor Overall, did not respond to his written requests for treatment for three months. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 8-9). As a result, Plaintiff endured extreme pain and difficulty eating. Id.

         Along with his Complaint, Plaintiff submitted a copy of four written requests for dental treatment. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 8-9). In the first one dated July 24, 2016, Plaintiff stated that he was experiencing a “dental emergency.” (Doc. 1, p. 9). He explained that one of his teeth was broken, resulting in extreme pain and an inability to eat. Id. He asked that one or more teeth be extracted. Id.

         In the second written request dated August 8, 2016, Plaintiff stated, “I am in extreme pain[.] I have a broken tooth and cannot eat[.] I need to see Dentist to have [a] tooth pulled and checked out.” (Doc. 1, p. 9). The form is entitled “Dental Emergency.” Id.

         In his third request dated August 25, 2016, Plaintiff again stated that he broke a tooth, and he asked that it be extracted. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He referred to numerous other written requests for treatment that remained unanswered. Id.

         On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a fourth Offender Request, in which he again complained of tooth pain and an inability to eat. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff also indicated that he was out of ibuprofen. Id. Almost three months after submitting his first request for dental care, Doctor Overall finally extracted Plaintiff's tooth. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff maintains, however, that the delay in treatment caused him to endure unnecessary and excruciating ...


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