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Dent v. McBride

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 9, 2017

CHARLES DENT, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDAL MCBRIDE and DENNIS LARSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Reconsideration filed by Plaintiff Charles Dent (Doc. 68), as well as his Motion to Appoint Counsel on Appeal (Doc. 70), Motion for Leave to Appeal in forma pauperis (Doc. 81), and Motion to Supplement the Record on Appeal (Doc. 83). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Reconsideration, Motion to Appoint Counsel on Appeal, and Motion to Supplement the Record on Appeal are denied. The Motion for Leave to Appeal in forma pauperis is granted.

         Background

         Plaintiff Charles Dent, an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections, initiated this lawsuit on July 8, 2015, alleging his constitutional rights were violated when Dr. Randal McBride, a dentist, and Dr. Dennis Larson, the medical director at Big Muddy Correctional Center, were deliberately indifferent to his serious dental issues, including painful, abscessed teeth (Doc. 1). Specifically, Dent claimed Defendants delayed the extraction of his teeth for an unreasonable amount of time.

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the merits of this case on November 30, 2016 (Doc. 36). Dent filed a supplemental brief in opposition to summary judgment on July 6, 2017, after completing the deposition of Dr. Jay Swanson, an oral surgeon who treated Dent (Doc. 56). Defendants filed a supplemental reply on July 20, 2017 (Doc. 57). The undersigned District Judge granted summary judgment to Defendants on September 22, 2017 (Doc. 66). On October 3, 2017, Dent asked the Court to reconsider its ruling (Doc. 68).

         Discussion

         I. Motion to Reconsider

         Although Dent did not file his motion to reconsider pursuant to any certain Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, “the fact that it challenges the merits of the district court's decision means that it must fall under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) . . . .” Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994). Whether a motion for reconsideration should be analyzed under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) depends on the substance of the motion, not on the timing or label affixed to it. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 493 (7th Cir. 2008). Because Dent's motion asserts a manifest error of fact by the Court in granting summary judgment, and because it was filed within 28 days of the entry of judgment, the Court reviews Dent's motion under Rule 59(e). See id.

         As an initial matter, the Court must address its jurisdiction to decide Dent's Rule 59 motion. Normally, “a notice of appeal divests the district court of its control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal.” May v. Sheahan, 226 F.3d 876, 879 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982)). However, where a party prematurely files a notice of appeal before the Court has acted on a timely Rule 59 motion, as is the case here, the notice of appeal does not divest the Court of jurisdiction to rule on the motion. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i). The notice of appeal is, in effect, suspended until the Court disposes of the Rule 59 motion. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i).

         Having established its jurisdiction, the Court now addresses the merits of the motion. Rule 59(e) permits a court to amend a judgment only if the movant demonstrates a manifest error of law or fact or presents newly discovered evidence. See, e.g., Miller v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 683 F.3d 805, 814 (7th Cir. 2012). A “manifest error” is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party, but rather is the “wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). “This rule enables the court to correct its own errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate procedures.” Miller, 683 F.3d at 814 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The decision to grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion is entrusted to the “sound judgment” of the district court. Id.

         In granting summary judgment for Defendants, the Court held there was no unreasonable delay in the extraction of Dent's teeth. Specifically, the Court relied on evidence that Dent first complained of pain around the area of tooth #30 on October 23, 2014. An examination by Dr. McBride showed mild to moderate periodontitis (gum disease) but no abscess or swelling. Two months later, Dent returned and complained of pain on the other side of his mouth near teeth #17 and #18. Dr. McBride noted inflammation around the wisdom tooth and mild to moderate gum recession, but no infection at that time. Nevertheless, Dr. McBride ordered penicillin, ibuprofen, and an x- ray and told Dent request additional care if the condition persisted. When Dent returned on January 21, 2015, again complaining of pain and swelling around the area of teeth #17 and #18, Dr. McBride performed a percussion test (tapping on the tooth), which was negative. Unsure of what was causing Dent's pain, Dr. McBride referred Dent to Dr. Swanson, the oral surgeon, for a more extensive evaluation than was possible at Big Muddy.

         Dr. Swanson saw Dent on February 12, 2015. Dr. Swanson diagnosed Dent with tooth decay and periodontal disease and noted an “early abscess” in tooth #18 and possibly #17, as well as severe pain to percussion. Dr. Swanson indicated removal of teeth #17 and #18 was necessary. He also “suggested” removal of tooth #30. Dr. Swanson testified he would have made a phone call if he thought Dent needed emergency treatment or to get approval for tooth #30 if he thought it was urgent.

         Upon his return to Big Muddy, Dr. Larson admitted Dent to the infirmary and prescribed him ibuprofen and antibiotics, which significantly improved Dent's symptoms and allowed him to eat, sleep, and swallow without complications. Teeth #17 and #18 were surgically extracted on March 19, 2015, Dr. Swanson's first available appointment. The Court found that the length of time from February 12, 2015, when Dr. Swanson diagnosed Dent with an “early abscess” to March 19, 2015, when teeth #17 and #18 were extracted was not unreasonable given that Dent's symptoms had improved and that he was scheduled for Dr. Swanson's first available appointment.[1] The Court also found there was no evidence that Dr. Larson's treatment was deficient or that he provided care inconsistent with the directives of either Dr. Swanson or Dr. McBride.

         The Court also relied on evidence that Dr. McBride examined Dent post-operation on March 25, 2015. Dent again complained about sensitivity to tooth #30, which Dr. McBride noted had some gum recession but no cracks or new decay. Dr. McBride advised Dent they had to wait to extract tooth #30 until the surgical site from teeth #17 and #18 healed. On May 4, 2015, Dent reported greater pain in the area of tooth #30. Dent agreed to have the extraction done in two weeks after he had completed the current round of antibiotics. Tooth #30 was extracted on May 21, 2015. The Court held this length of time was not unreasonable when there was no recommendation from ...


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