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Weaver v. Mitchell

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 4, 2018

WENDELL WEAVER #R47387, Plaintiff,
v.
JACQUELINE MITCHELL, D.D.S, and RANDY PFISTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Wendell Weaver, an Illinois inmate, has sued Defendants Jacqueline Mitchell, D.D.S. and Stateville Correctional Center Warden Randy Pfister for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 stemming from Plaintiff's receipt of allegedly inadequate dental care.[1] Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. 111). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Randy Pfister in his individual capacity and his claims against both Defendants regarding the treatment for his #5 tooth are dismissed. Plaintiff's claims regarding his #12 tooth remain and will proceed to trial.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court takes the relevant facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements of undisputed material facts and supporting exhibits: (Dkt. 113), (Dkt. 124), and (Dkt. 127). The Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party-here Plaintiff. See Smego v. Mitchell, 723 F.3d 752, 754 (7th Cir. 2013). The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff is an inmate housed at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”). Defendant Dr. Mitchell is a dentist who worked in Stateville's Health Care Unit (“HCU”). Defendant Pfister is the current warden of Stateville; he has held this post since November 2015. (Dkt. 113) at ¶¶ 1-2. The previous Warden was Michael Lemke. As relevant here, Pfister served as an Assistant Warden of Operations at Stateville from December 2009 through May 2011, at which time he oversaw the prison's “operations, ” including security, maintenance, and dietary. Id. at ¶ 7. From May 2011 to November 2015, Pfister was employed at a different prison. See (Dkt. 113), Ex. 2 (R. Pfister Dep.) at 12:23-13:10.

         At issue in this case is Defendants' treatment of two of Plaintiff's teeth, both of which Plaintiff eventually lost. Plaintiff first began experiencing dental issues in late 2007, when a dentist in the Stateville HCU determined that Plaintiff needed a filling in his right first bicuspid, known as his #5 tooth. (Dkt. 113), Ex. 1 (Answer to Am. Compl.) at ¶ 11. Plaintiff's cavity was examined and he was given a temporary filling in January 2008. Id. at ¶ 12. Later, a root canal was determined to be necessary, and “root canal treatment” was performed with Plaintiff's consent on June 6, 2008. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 57. After multiple delays, the overall root canal procedure was completed on September 10, 2008. (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 23. Some of the delays were caused by lockdown situations, in which movement in the prison is restricted. During lockdowns, inmates with appointments but without emergency medical situations are rescheduled for another date. Id. at ¶ 12. Other of Plaintiff's appointments were cancelled when Plaintiff failed to attend the appointments and was listed as a “no show” on his dental records. An inmate may be listed as a “no show” due to circumstances within his control and also beyond his control, including situations where security officers failed to escort him to the HCU. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 63.

         Plaintiff was next seen October 1, 2008 for a “final restoration, ” and Dr. Mitchell examined his #5 tooth. She noted in Plaintiff's medical records that the tooth had limited support and recorded that “patient advised he needs post core crown.” (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 58; see also (Dkt. 113), Ex. 8 at IDOC00006. At her deposition, Dr. Mitchell testified that she believed that this course of treatment would have been “ideal” for Plaintiff in “terms of restoring.” See (Dkt. 124-3) (J. Mitchell Dep.) at 168:7-11. However, Plaintiff was not given a post-core-crown procedure. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 59. The parties dispute the rationale behind this decision. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Mitchell both told him and later testified that he was not provided the post-core-crown treatment due to an “unwritten rule” at Stateville against providing these restorative elements. Id. Although Defendants admit that Dr. Mitchell testified about an “unwritten rule” at Stateville, Defendants contend that Dr. Mitchell's testimony was that Stateville's “unwritten rule” is that the prison only provides treatment within the basic community standards for the regular non-incarcerated population. In this way, Defendants dispute that the “unwritten rule” specifically regards root canal restorative elements. See (Dkt. 127) at ¶ 59.

         In any event, some five months later, Plaintiff's #5 tooth fractured. On March 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance (No. 1357), requesting medical attention and noting that his tooth had broken while he was eating ice the day before and that he was in pain. Plaintiff further noted Dr. Mitchell's comment following his root canal that he “need[s] something called ‘a core & a crown' because root canals makes the tooth ‘weak, '” but that “Stateville [doesn't] do” those procedures. Plaintiff complained about his root canal as incomplete and stated that his family would pay for the core and crown if necessary, emphasizing that he did not want to lose any teeth. See (Dkt. 113), Ex. 7 (March 16, 2009 Grievance No. 1357) at IDOC000009 (“My question to whom ever [sic] is how could the dentist do a half . . . job? Meaning a root canal without a core and crown and especially ‘knowing' how a root canal make a tooth weak?”); see also (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 60. According to the parties, Dr. Mitchell first reviewed and responded to the grievance on April 20, 2009. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 73. Grievance No. 1357 was “reviewed” on July 29, 2009, and the results of the review were concurred with on August 4, 2009 (142 days after the grievance was filed). (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 24; see also (Dkt. 124-3), Ex. 11 (Grievance Officer Report). Ultimately, Plaintiff's #5 tooth was extracted two years later (after it broke once more) on March 24, 2011. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff was seen for his “two year examination” appointment shortly thereafter on April 6, 2011. Id. at ¶ 28. As a result of this and another examination, Plaintiff received a filling in his first left bicuspid-his #12 tooth-on August 29, 2011. Id. at ¶¶ 29-30. Following that procedure, Plaintiff made two requests for dental appointments. He consequently was scheduled to be seen on September 23, September 29, and October 19, but Plaintiff was a “no show” for those appointments. Id. at ¶¶ 31-34. Plaintiff made another appointment request that was received in November, and he was seen on November 28, 2011. At that appointment, his tooth and the associated pulp were “worked on.” Defendants contend that Plaintiff was then offered the choice of a root canal or extraction, and Plaintiff opted for the root canal. Id. at ¶ 36. Plaintiff disputes that he was given this option or that he consented to a root canal for his #12 tooth. See (Dkt. 124) at ¶¶ 36, 61. Regardless, Dr. Mitchell began Plaintiff's root canal work on December 7, 2011, whereon portions of his tooth were “worked on.” (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 38. Plaintiff was given a temporary filling. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff claims that during this appointment, Dr. Mitchell told him that his #5 tooth had cracked and broken because “he needed a post and a crown after any and all root canals.” (Dkt. 124) at ¶¶ 22, 62; see also (Dkt. 113), Ex. 6 (Grievance N. M302) (“Dr. Mitchell inform[ed] me after she had started (the second) root canal without my consent, that the reason my first tooth cracked and broke was because I needed a ‘post and a crown' after any/and all root canals . . . .”). Defendants dispute both that Dr. Mitchell discussed Plaintiff's #5 tooth on this date or that she stated that posts and crowns are needed after all root canals; Defendants instead contend that post and crown treatment is “partially cosmetic and not necessary, but does add support to the tooth.” (Dkt. 127) at ¶ 62.

         When the time came for Plaintiff's follow-up appointment six days later, the appointment was rescheduled because the medical staff “ran out of time” to see Plaintiff. Plaintiff's rescheduled appointment on December 22 was later cancelled due to “staff shortages”. (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 39; see also (Dkt. 113), Ex. 1 at ¶ 42; (Dkt. 113), Ex. 8 at IDOC000012.

         In early January 2012, Plaintiff requested an appointment because his temporary filling had come out; he was seen on January 9 and his #12 tooth again was “worked on.” Id. at ¶¶ 40- 41. On January 12, 2012, prior to his follow-up appointment scheduled for January 26, 2012, Plaintiff reported to the HCU that he was in pain. In response, Plaintiff was sent pain medication and antibiotics; his follow-up appointment was not advanced. Id. at ¶ 42. On January 26, 2012, Stateville was under lockdown and Plaintiff's appointment was rescheduled for February 8. Plaintiff was a “no show” for his February appointment, and it was rescheduled for April 20, 2012. Before that appointment could occur, on March 13, 2012, Plaintiff reported that his temporary filling again had fallen out. Id. at ¶ 44. Plaintiff was seen on March 29 and two root canal therapy sessions were scheduled-and conducted-in April. Id. at ¶¶ 45-46. Plaintiff's root canal on his #12 tooth was ultimately finished on May 15, 2012. Id. at ¶¶ 47-48. During the five months that passed between the initiation of the root canal and its completion, Plaintiff claims that he suffered excruciating pain. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 64. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff suffered any infections during this time, although they do not dispute that he was prescribed antibiotics in January. Id.; (Dkt. 127) at ¶ 64. Due to two lockdowns and Plaintiff's failure to attend a scheduled appointment, Plaintiff was not seen for his root-canal follow-up appointment until August 16, 2012. In addition, the day before this appointment, Plaintiff reported a “missing filling in his #12 tooth.” Id. at ¶¶ 49-50. The filling was replaced at the August 16 appointment.

         On February 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a grievance (No. M302) complaining about the pain and suffering he endured through his two root canals at Stateville due to the multiple infections he contracted and the multiple times he needed to have his teeth re-worked before his root canals could be completed. (Dkt. 113), Ex. 6 (Grievance No. M302). Plaintiff complained that all of the dental work (and re-work) caused him “weeks of headaches, ” prevented him from eating, and “leaked” medicine in his mouth. Plaintiff further stated that approximately three weeks prior to the grievance date, the last tooth on which he had work done (presumably his #12 tooth) cracked, broke, went into his gums, and caused him to bleed for two days. Plaintiff relayed that he had made 10-15 appointment requests, but that he had not yet been seen. He further stated that he had swallowed part of his broken tooth while trying to eat. Id. Ultimately, Plaintiff complained that he had received inadequate dental care that had caused him to lose his teeth permanently. Plaintiff requested an emergency grievance hearing regarding Grievance No. M302; Plaintiff's request was denied by Warden Lemke on March 1, 2013. (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff's medical records reflect that he then failed to attend four scheduled appointments from February to June of 2013, and that he had a biannual exam on July 10, 2013. (Dkt. 113), Ex. 8 at 118. He attended a follow-up appointment on December 18, 2013 and then was not seen again until July 9, 2015 for his next biannual exam. Id. In the meantime, according to the parties, Grievance No. M302 was reviewed more than a year later on March 28, 2014 with Dr. Mitchell's assistance (see (Dkt. 7) at 7), and the results of the review were concurred with on April 2, 2014. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff appealed this grievance to the Administrative Review Board, which made a (presumptively negative) “determination” on the grievance on September 5, 2014-579 days after the grievance was filed. Id. at ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff filed suit on March 31, 2015. His amended complaint asserts five § 1983 claims for the violation of his Eighth Amendment rights: (1) failure to provide proper dental treatment against Dr. Mitchell; (2) failure to promptly reschedule treatment against Dr. Mitchell; (3) improper denial of medical treatment against Pfister; (4) failure to direct prompt treatment against Pfister; and (5) denial of emergency grievance against Defendant Pfister. See (Dkt. 45). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief in the form of an order requiring Defendants to perform the “full” root canal procedure or replace his lost teeth.

         During the pendency of this lawsuit, on February 19, 2016 Plaintiff again complained to Stateville's dental staff that his #12 tooth had broken. The tooth was “treated”; it was not extracted. (Dkt. 113) at ¶ 51. In October 2016, Plaintiff reported a tingling in his #12 tooth, but he did not want it extracted. He was given antibiotics. Id. at ¶ 53. Ten months later, on July 18, 2017, Plaintiff was taken to an outside dentist-Dr. Glenn Scheive-for the extraction of two wisdom teeth. (Dkt. 124) at ¶¶ 66-67. During that appointment, Dr. Scheive determined that Plaintiff's #12 tooth had developed an abscess and that Plaintiff had sustained bone loss associated with the abscess. Id. at ¶¶ 65, 68-69; (Dkt. 124-2) (Scheive Dep.) at 59:23. The parties do not dispute that only “longstanding” abscesses cause bone loss. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 70; (Dkt. 127) at ¶ 70. In addition, the parties agree that Plaintiff's abscess was likely caused by the lack of a crown on his #12 tooth. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 71; (Dkt. 127) at ¶ 71. Plaintiff consented to the extraction of his #12 tooth by Dr. Scheive. (Dkt. 124) at ¶ 72.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor (here, Plaintiff). Majors v. Gen. Elec. Co., 714 F.3d 527, 532 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Rule 56(a) “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against any party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party would bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In other words, the moving party may meet its burden by pointing out to the court that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 324.

         To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). For this reason, the Seventh Circuit has called summary judgment the “put up or shut up” moment in a lawsuit-“when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of events.” See Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007). In other words, the party opposing summary judgment “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. 252.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Defendants first argue that Plaintiff's claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent in treating his #5 tooth are untimely. “Claims brought under § 1983 are governed by the statute of limitations for personal-injury claims in the state where the plaintiff's injury occurred.” Neita v. City of Chicago, 830 F.3d 494, 498 (7th Cir. 2016). “In Illinois the statute of limitations for personal-injury actions is two years from when the cause of action accrued[.]” Id. While state law determines the length of the limitations period, “[f]ederal law . . . determines the accrual of a claim” brought under § 1983. Wilson v. Giesen, 956 F.2d 738, 741 (7th Cir. 1992). On this point, “[a] § 1983 claim to redress a medical injury arising from deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs accrues when the plaintiff knows of his physical ...


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