United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MARLON L. WATFORD, # R-15678, Plaintiff,
STEVEN NEWBOLD, JOHN TROST, DAWN GHAFTHER, JANE DOE Nurse, DR. FUENTES, DR. KAJA, WEXFORD, KIMBERLY BUTLER, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, and SUSAN KIRK,, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, United States District Court Chief Judge
who is serving a life sentence at Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”), has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff claims that some Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his serious dental condition, and others
displayed deliberate indifference to a distinct serious
medical condition. This same conduct allegedly violated
Plaintiff's First Amendment right to practice his
religion, the RLUIPA, and the Illinois Constitution. This
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
§ 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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A. Further,
the surviving claims are not properly joined in the same
action, so one count shall be severed into a new case.
introduces his Complaint by noting that he is a devout
practitioner of Al-Islam, under which he has a religious duty
to keep himself free from all forms of oppression. (Doc. 1,
pp. 2-3). This includes the duty to be a good custodian of
his body, which is a “gift and a trust from
Allah.” (Doc. 1, p. 3).
23, 2016, Plaintiff had his bi-annual dental checkup with
Newbold (the prison dentist). At that time, he learned that
in 2014, Newbold had diagnosed him with a cavity in one tooth
- but had never disclosed this fact to Plaintiff until the
May 23, 2016 visit. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). During the time
between 2014 and 2016, Plaintiff had suffered unexplained
pain in the affected tooth. On May 23, 2016, Newbold
purportedly put Plaintiff on the list to have a filling.
November 3, 2016, Plaintiff was called to see Dentist Kaja to
have the cavity filled; he told Kaja about the “ongoing
periodic pain” in that tooth. Kaja ordered an x-ray to
be done prior to the filling. (Doc. 1, p. 5). After the x-ray
was done, Kaja informed Plaintiff that Newbold instructed her
not to fill the tooth that day. On November 4, 2016,
Plaintiff sent a request slip to Newbold asking why he could
not get the filling; Newbold did not respond. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
did not return for dental care until June 13, 2017, when he
had his teeth cleaned. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He told the hygienist
about the cavity. Newbold told Plaintiff that he might have
an abscess, and gave him antibiotics, ibuprofen, and ordered
30, 2017, Plaintiff had the x-ray. On August 22, 2017,
Plaintiff visited Newbold to discuss the x-ray results.
Newbold opined that a wisdom tooth can cause the pain
Plaintiff had been experiencing. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff
responded that he did not believe he had an abscess, and
needed a filling of his cavity in order to relieve the pain.
Newbold said Plaintiff had been “added to the filling
the date he filed the instant Complaint (November 17, 2017),
Plaintiff's cavity had not yet been filled. (Doc. 1, pp.
alleges that Wexford Health Sources, Inc.,
(“Wexford”) has a policy that instructs their
employees (Newbold and Kaja) “to put cost over health
care and to deprive Illinois prisoners . . . of needed
medical and dental treatment.” (Doc. 1, p. 9).
further alleges that Newbold, Kaja, and Wexford's failure
to fill his cavity has prevented him from discharging his
religious obligation to obtain care for his diseased tooth.
(Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff also claims that this conduct
violates RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act) and Article I, sections 3 and 11 of the Illinois
Constitution. (Doc. 1, p. 11).
second claim concerns his serious abdominal symptoms. (Doc.
1, pp. 13-22). On March 18, 2015, Plaintiff began having
severe stomach pains, made worse when he ate and drank. The
pain was accompanied by severe diarrhea. Some time in the
past, Plaintiff had been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel
syndrome) and a severe infection with H. Pylori, for which he
had been treated twice. (Doc. 1, p. 15).
morning of March 18, Plaintiff went to the Health Care Unit
and consulted the Jane Doe Nurse. She attributed his symptoms
to IBS because his stool test for H. Pylori was negative, and
sent him back to his cell without seeing Dr. Trost. (Doc. 1,
p. 16; Doc. 1-1, pp. 30-31). Plaintiff does not say whether
or not the nurse gave him any medication for his condition.
March 20, 2015, Plaintiff was taken to see Dr. Fuentes and
Nurse Ghafther. He explained his symptoms, which were
identical to those he experienced during his previous H.
Pylori infection and his bouts with IBS. (Doc. 1-1, p. 31).
However, Nurse Ghafther cut him off and told him he had GERD
(gastro-esophageal reflux disease). Ghafther and Fuentes did
not perform any diagnostic tests to arrive at this
conclusion. (Doc. 1, p. 17; Doc. 1-1, pp. 31-32). Plaintiff
again tried to explain his IBS condition and chronic stomach
inflammation, and requested a “correct diagnosis”
and proper treatment. Id. Fuentes refused to perform
any tests, and “prematurely terminated” the
appointment. Id. Plaintiff was charged a $5.00
co-payment for the visit, which he claims was improper under
state law, because he suffers from the ongoing IBS condition.
March 29, 2015, Plaintiff consulted Dr. Trost about his
continuing abdominal/intestinal symptoms. Dr. Trost did not
conduct any tests or prescribe any treatment, but “made
a promise” to send Plaintiff to an outside specialist.
(Doc. 1, p. 18). However, that visit never took place.
than a year later, on June 16, 2016, Plaintiff consulted
Nurse Kirk about his recurring symptoms of stomach pain and
burning, and stomach and bowel spasms. He also had begun to
have blood in his stool. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). Plaintiff
requested a referral to Dr. Trost, but this was not done. He
claims to have submitted numerous requests slips for medical
treatment up to the present date, with no further response.
references a book entitled A New I.B.S. Solution,
which recommends an IBS breath test, endoscopy, and a 10-day
course of 2 antibiotics as appropriate treatment for his
condition, and claims that Defendants' refusal to provide
this treatment constitutes deliberate indifference. (Doc. 1,
he asserts that Wexford has a cost-cutting policy which
prompted Fuentes, Trost, Ghafther, Kirk, and the Jane Doe
Nurse to deny him treatment. Id. Plaintiff adds that
the lack of treatment violates his First Amendment rights,
the RLUIPA, and the Illinois Constitution. (Doc.1, pp.
also names Kimberly Butler and Jacqueline Lashbrook as
Defendants, but does not mention them in the statement of
claim, other than to assert that somebody forged then-Warden
Butler's signature on a grievance. (Doc. 1, pp. 23-24).
addition to requesting compensatory and punitive damages, the
Complaint seeks an “emergency injunctive order”
directing the Defendants to give him a permanent filling, and
provide specific tests and treatment for his IBS condition.
(Doc. 1, pp. 12, 24-25, 28-29).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
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 deliberate
indifference claim against Newbold, Kaja, and Wexford, for
delaying and denying dental treatment for Plaintiff's
cavity since 2014;
Count 2: First Amendment and RLUIPA claims
against Newbold, Kaja, and Wexford, for delaying and denying
dental treatment for Plaintiff's cavity since 2014;
Count 3: Illinois State law claim against
Newbold, Kaja, and Wexford, for violating the Illinois
Constitution, Article I, sections 3 and 11, when they delayed
and denied dental treatment for Plaintiff's cavity since
Count 4: Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference claim against Trost, Ghafther, the Jane Doe
Nurse, Fuentes, Kirk, and Wexford, for denying diagnostic
testing and treatment for Plaintiff's severe stomach pain
and intestinal symptoms, and failing to refer Plaintiff to a
specialist for diagnosis and treatment;
Count 5: First Amendment and RLUIPA claims
against Trost, Ghafther, the Jane Doe Nurse, Fuentes, Kirk,
and Wexford, for denying diagnostic testing and treatment for
Plaintiff's severe stomach pain and intestinal symptoms,
and failing to refer Plaintiff to a specialist for diagnosis
Count 6: Illinois State law claim against
Trost, Ghafther, the Jane Doe Nurse, Fuentes, Kirk, and
Wexford, for violating the Illinois Constitution, Article I,
sections 3 and 11, when they denied diagnostic testing,
treatment, or a referral for ...