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McFields v. Sheriff of Cook County

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

April 13, 2018

COURTNEY MCFIELDS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Courtney McFields, Pierre Brunt, Tarik Page, and Anthony Dixon sued Defendants Cook County and the Cook County Sheriff under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs, on behalf of a proposed class, allege that Defendants violated their Eighth Amendment rights by demonstrating deliberate indifference to dental pain they experienced while confined at the Cook County Jail. The Sheriff moved to dismiss. [20]. For the reasons explained below, this Court denies that motion.

         I. Background

         A. The Complaint's Allegations

         Defendants operate the Cook County Jail and share responsibility for providing medical care to detainees. [1] ¶¶ 4-6. Defendants require that detainees with dental pain complete a “health service request form” before receiving treatment. Id. ¶ 11. The appropriate standard of care dictates that a registered nurse or similar provider would review any complaints of dental pain and conduct a face-to-face evaluation with a complaining detainee within 48 hours of the detainee submitting a request form. Id. ¶ 12. Prompt face-to-face evaluations would allow nurses to give detainees antibiotics and over-the-counter medications for pain relief before detainees see a dentist. Id. ¶ 8. Defendants follow a different practice at the jail, however: nursing staff forward request forms for dental pain to dental staff without evaluating patients or giving them pain medication. Id. ¶ 17.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' failure to ensure timely screening and pain relief caused Plaintiffs and others similarly situated to experience gratuitous dental pain while confined at the jail. Id. ¶ 19. Specifically, Page started experiencing dental pain in January 2014 and submitted several request forms complaining about the pain. Id. ¶¶ 31-32. He never had a face-to-face evaluation with a nurse, and he suffered untreated dental pain for about 90 days before seeing a dentist. Id. ¶ 33. Dixon, whose dental pain began in May 2014, also never had a face-to-face evaluation with a nurse despite submitting multiple request forms. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Dixon's dental pain went untreated for 60 days before he saw a dentist. Id. ¶ 30.

         McFields submitted a request form for dental pain in late October 2014. Id. ¶ 21. A registered nurse reviewed the form one day after McFields submitted it; without conducting a face-to-face evaluation or providing McFields with pain medication, the nurse forwarded McFields' request form to a dentist. Id. ¶ 22. McFields continued experiencing severe dental pain and submitted a second request form several weeks later when he still had not seen a dentist or received any pain medication. Id. ¶ 23. A dentist finally examined McFields in late November 2014 and removed an infected tooth. Id. ¶ 24. In fall 2016, Brunt experienced dental pain and submitted multiple request forms and grievances complaining about his pain. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Brunt never saw a nurse for a face-to-face evaluation. Id. ¶ 27. He endured untreated dental pain for about 60 days before he saw a dentist. Id.

         B. Smentek Litigation[1]

         McFields, Page, and Dixon originally belonged to the plaintiff class in Smentek v. Sheriff of Cook County, No. 09-cv-529 (N.D. Ill.), a similar § 1983 case. Id. ¶ 34. In August 2011, the Smentek court certified the following class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3): “All inmates housed at Cook County Department of Corrections on or after January 1, 2007, who have made a written request for dental care because of acute pain and who suffered prolonged and unnecessary pain because of lack of treatment.” [20-1] at 2 (October 2016 Opinion and Order). In December 2014, the court ordered the parties to confer regarding a closing date for the class period. Id. Instead of suggesting a single end date, the Smentek plaintiffs proposed five subclasses for different periods of time. Id. at 2-3. The court rejected the proposed subclasses in an October 2016 opinion and set a class closing date of October 31, 2013. Id. at 8. That closing date excluded McFields, Page, and Dixon, who suffered untreated dental pain in 2014. [1] ¶¶ 21- 33. McFields, Page, Dixon, and Brunt filed this suit in October 2017. [1].

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim” showing that the pleader merits relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), so the defendant has “fair notice” of the claim “and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint must also contain “sufficient factual matter” to state a facially plausible claim to relief-one that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference” that the defendant committed the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility” that a defendant acted unlawfully. Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013).

         In evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This Court does not, however, accept a complaint's legal conclusions as true. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court to considering the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, documents central to the complaint (to which the complaint refers), and information properly subject to judicial notice. Williamson, 714 F.3d at 436.

         III. Analysis

         The Sheriff seeks to dismiss all claims except Brunt's as time-barred. [20] at 2.[2] The Sheriff also argues that, even if Plaintiffs' claims proceed, ...


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