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Singleton v. Rains

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 7, 2017

AVERY SINGLETON, # R-29723, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID RAINS, DR. LEO NARODISTKY, PHIL MARTIN, DR. SANDHU, and MRS. SLICKENMEYER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's claims arose while he was confined at Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), and he filed the action while he was in Jacksonville Correctional Center (“Jacksonville”). Plaintiff claims that the prison dentist at Lawrence, Dr. Narodistky, delayed treatment for a damaged tooth and rendered improper treatment that caused him pain. 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 some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On August 15, 2016, while Plaintiff was at Robinson, he sought treatment from Dr. Narodistky for a broken tooth (tooth #7). (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff asked for a repair using “flo[w]able composite, ” which he had received earlier on the same tooth while at the Cook County Jail, and outside prison. Some of that composite remained on Plaintiff's tooth from his earlier dental work. Narodistky responded that he could not do the composite repair, and all he could do was extract the tooth. Because the composite on his tooth was not completely chipped away, Plaintiff did not choose the extraction.

         At some point after the August 15 dental visit, while eating, Plaintiff cracked the flowable composite where it had bonded his tooth back together. This made it difficult for him to eat, because he was trying to avoid completely breaking the tooth.

         On approximately October 31, 2016, Plaintiff returned to see Narodistky, and asked if he could get a temporary crown and a root canal. Narodistky said that a root canal was too costly and the IDOC would not pay for it, so all he could do was extract the tooth. Plaintiff asked if the tooth could be bonded together with the flowable composite. Narodistky instead suggested that Plaintiff should let him extract the tooth and replace it with a partial, and reiterated that he could not do a crown and root canal due to cost limitations. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff wanted to save the tooth, because it was not painful or infected, just cracked, and other dentists had been able to bond the tooth. Id.

         Plaintiff also asked for partials for the lower left and right rear of his mouth where he was already missing other teeth. Narodistky would only provide these partials if Plaintiff agreed to pay $80. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Plaintiff filed grievances on October 31 and November 20, 2017, to complain about Narodistky's refusal to repair the tooth.[1] (Doc. 1, pp. 16, 27, 29-32). In December 2016, after receiving the response to his grievances, Plaintiff was called back to see Narodistky. This time, Narodistky agreed to give Plaintiff a crown for the problem tooth #7. However, the work would not be done until January 2017. Narodistky showed Plaintiff the type of crown he would get (silver), and explained that he would first “build the tooth up, ” and then put on the crown. Narodistky then “snatched the lower broken part of the chipped tooth off . . . with his hand.” (Doc. 1, p. 16). This caused Plaintiff some slight pain.

         Around January 15, 2017, Plaintiff went to see Narodistky expecting to get the metal crown. However, Narodistky said that instead of putting on a crown, he would “build up the tooth like a regular tooth.” (Doc. 1, p. 16). Plaintiff agreed, because he was tired of the delay. Within 2 days after the buildup procedure, Plaintiff's tooth was in excruciating pain. Before the treatment, Plaintiff had not had any problem with that tooth, other than the fact it was cracked. When Plaintiff reported the pain, Narodistky asked him whether he was ready to have the tooth pulled now, which suggested to Plaintiff that the dentist intentionally did something to infect his tooth. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Narodistky prescribed ibuprofen and antibiotics at that time. (Doc. 1, pp. 38-39).

         Plaintiff's attached documents reveal more details as to the chronology of events after this point. On April 4, 2017, Plaintiff signed up for sick call to see the dentist, and also wrote a letter to Martin, Warden Rains, and Slickenmeyer (Director of Nursing). (Doc. 1, pp. 40, 43-45). In the letter, Plaintiff complained that Narodistky had initially refused to perform a root canal and crown on the tooth that Plaintiff believed could be saved; complained that Narodistky failed to put on a crown after initially agreeing to do so; stated that he had been in pain ever since undergoing the tooth buildup procedure despite getting antibiotics and ibuprofen from Narodistky about a week after the procedure; and noted that Narodistky denied his request for a root canal because he did not have the necessary tool. Plaintiff asked to be scheduled to see somebody who could perform a root canal in order to relieve his pain, and noted that Narodistky had not done any x-rays to check the condition of the painful tooth. (Doc. 1, p. 45). In the Complaint, Plaintiff states that Martin, Rains, and Slickenmeyer did nothing to address his needs. (Doc. 1, p. 17). However, Plaintiff notes in his grievance narratives that he was called in for a dental x-ray soon after he sent the letter. (Doc. 1, pp. 34-35). At an unspecified time, Plaintiff spoke to Martin (Health Care Administrator) about a grievance (the Complaint does not specify which one), but Martin merely responded that “the rules are the rules, ” and walked away.[2] (Doc. 1, p. 17).

         Narodistky also visited Plaintiff over a period of several days to check on his condition, while Plaintiff was housed in segregation, starting on approximately April 5, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 40). Narodistky performed the x-ray, which showed an infection; he then prescribed penicillin and ibuprofen. Id. Several days later, Plaintiff told Narodistky that the infection in his gums seemed to be getting worse, so Narodistky gave Plaintiff a stronger antibiotic. Id.

         When the pain continued to intensify, on approximately April 11, 2017, Narodistky examined Plaintiff in his office and explained that a portion of the tooth buildup must be removed in order to drain the abscess/infection. (Doc. 1, pp. 18, 40-41). Narodistky did that procedure and the area began to drain. Id.

         Plaintiff asked Narodistky to perform the root canal. (Doc. 1, pp. 18, 42). Narodistky said that he was unable to do so, because he did not have the special tool needed for a root canal. However, he told Plaintiff that the procedure was “about 80% complete” based on what he had already done. Id. At some point, Narodistky requested his supervisor (Dr. Sandhu) to allow a referral for Plaintiff to be treated by a root canal specialist. (Doc. 1, p. 18; see also Doc. 1, p. 50). Sandhu denied the referral.

         A few days later, Narodistky visited Plaintiff in the segregation unit and told him that Wexford had agreed to provide the tools for him to complete the root canal at the prison. (Doc. 1, pp. 18, 42). Plaintiff agreed to this plan, but he was transferred to another prison before Narodistky could obtain the tool and finish the root canal.

         Plaintiff complains that if Narodistky had not denied his request for a composite repair, or root canal and crown back in the fall of 2016, he would not have had to suffer the pain and distress from undergoing the buildup procedure, contracting the infection, and then having the incomplete root canal. (Doc. 1, pp. 19, 42). Between October 2016 and January 2017, while Narodistky was refusing to perform a root canal, Plaintiff had much difficulty eating certain food because of the cracked tooth. (Doc. 1, p. 19). Narodistky initially claimed he could not repair the tooth, but then finally agreed to do it after Plaintiff filed grievances. (Doc. 1, p. 19). Plaintiff believes that the Defendants lied to him when they said that the IDOC does not do root canals, in order to convince Plaintiff to have the tooth pulled. (Doc. 1, p. 42).

         After Plaintiff's transfer to Jacksonville, his condition worsened. The infection and pain returned, and he was treated with antibiotics and pain medication. (Doc. 1, p. 42). As of the time Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint, the tooth was still in Plaintiff's mouth and nothing had been done to complete the root canal. (Doc. 1, p. 19). ...


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