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Knox v. Lashbrooks

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 9, 2019

TED KNOX, # N92676, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Ted Knox, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive adequate care for a dental emergency, that some staff retaliated against him in relation to his dental issue, and that Defendants Lashbrook and Wexford maintained policies or procedures that condoned the harms he sustained. He seeks monetary compensation and a recommendation that Wexford implement an appropriate dental care policy.

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or requests money damages from an immune defendant must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Complaint: Plaintiff received inadequate care for an infected abscessed tooth over the course of approximately three weeks from April 23, 2017, through May 18, 2017. The issue started on April 23, 2017, when Plaintiff noticed that one of his front teeth became problematic (Doc. 1 at 9). He submitted a request to the healthcare unit for assistance, because he has a documented history of periodontitis gum disease related to his diabetes (Id.). After waiting a few days, Plaintiff submitted a request for urgent care because the tooth condition had worsened (Id.). His pain was so great it interfered with his ability to sleep, read, write, clean, or attend to other daily tasks (Id. at 9-10). He spit blood and pus and was unable to properly brush his teeth due to the infection (Id. at 10). Plaintiff's cellmate expressed dismay because the infection caused his breath to smell (Id.).

         A week passed with no care rendered (Id.). On April 30, 2017, Plaintiff awoke to find his pillow covered in blood (Id.). He notified Nurse Dunn that his tooth was dangling and that he had constant blood and pus discharge, but she denied care (Id.). Plaintiff submitted a third request for urgent dental care that same day (Id.).

         On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff notified Defendant Lang of the worsening infection (Id. at 11). She refused to look at his tooth because she had no dental knowledge and she also refused pain medication (Id.). Defendant Tripp followed suit on May 5, 2017 when she denied care and teased Plaintiff to put the tooth under his pillow for the tooth fairy (Id.). Defendant Oakley also refused care on May 5, 2017 and indicated that Plaintiff had to wait his turn for care just like any person (including her) (Id. at 11-12).

         Plaintiff asked Defendant Oetjen for care on May 6, 2017, but she refused assistance (Id. at 12). Later that day, Defendants Oakley and Moll both refused care on the pretext that nothing could be done while the institution was on lockdown (Id.). On May 7, 2017, Defendants Chadderton, Marshall, and McGhee all refused care and told Plaintiff he would have to wait to see the dental unit (Id. at 12-13). The same continued on May 8, 2017 when Defendants Hamby, Lang, Lee, and Kirk all denied assistance of any form (Id. at 14-15).

         On May 9, 2017, Defendants Chadderton and Lang denied care (Id. at 15-16). Defendant Skidmore characterized the issue as a non-emergency at Menard but offered to get a pliers for the “old school plier treatment” (Id. at 15). Plaintiff lodged a fourth request for urgent dental care (Id. at 16).

         Defendants Dunn and Lang refused care on May 10, 2017 and Lang threatened to write Plaintiff a ticket or send him to segregation if he kept complaining about his tooth (Id. at 16). Plaintiff reported Lang's threat to Defendant Baylon and Baylon went to notify Defendant Murray of the tooth issue (Id.). Plaintiff also complained to Defendant McGhee that same day and sent emergency grievances to Defendant Lashbrook and the Administrative Review Board (Id.).

         Defendant Hamby refused care on May 11, 2017 because the institution was still on lockdown (Id. at 17). An unknown officer notified Plaintiff that his dental appointment was rescheduled due to lockdown (Id.). Despite the lockdown, there was movement about the facility from April 23, 2017 to May 15, 2017 (Id. at 17-18). Plaintiff's requests to Defendant Lang for care on May 11, 2017, went ignored (Id. at 18).

         Defendant Dahlem refused care on May 12, 2017 (Id. at 19). Defendant Oakley also refused to accept a mental health grievance form from Plaintiff on this day because mental health could not address dental problems (Id.). Later in the day, Defendant Gregson refused care and told Plaintiff he was silly to seek help via mental health requests (Id. at 19-20).

         Plaintiff declared a crisis on May 13, 2017 due to prolonged and worsening pain and suffering (Id. at 20). Defendant Dunn refused to make the crisis official, but Officer Epplin subsequently contacted a crisis team member (Id.). Team-member Defendant McWilliams came to Plaintiff's cell on May 13, 2017, and shortly thereafter, an unknown officer took him to the shower bull-pen (Id.). Although McWilliams promised to contact the dentist and to inform his boss (Defendant McShan) of the problem, the dentist was not contacted (Id. at 21). Defendant McShan made no referral to the dentist (Id.). Lieutenant Englarge claimed that he could see and smell the infection and would contact healthcare himself (Id. at 22). On May 14, 2017, Defendants Oetjen, Marshall and McGhee all declined assistance (Id. at 22). Plaintiff wrote a follow-up to Defendant Lashbrook about the status of his emergency grievance (Id.).

         The lock-down ended on May 15, 2017 and other offenders began to see the dental unit (Id. at 23). However, on that day, Defendants Lang, Hamby, and Dunn continued to ignore or refuse Plaintiffs requests for assistance (Id.). On May 17, 2017, Defendants Hamby, Williams, and Moll declined assistance (Id. at 24).

         As Plaintiff ate on May 18, 2017, his tooth broke and bled profusely (Id. at 24). He was quickly escorted to the healthcare area (Id.). A dental assistant cleaned the bleeding area, and Defendant Asselmeier then entered the room (Id. at 24-25). Asselmeier informed Plaintiff that he would always be at the bottom of the list for care if he kept his teeth, that he would not get an MRI to determine the extent of the infection, and that his only treatment option was removal of all teeth (Id. at 25). Plaintiff received a prescription for antibiotics and acetaminophen (Id.).

         On May 19, 2017, Defendant Dunn refused Plaintiff's request slip for a soft diet and told him he would regret initiating a grievance against her (Id. at 26). Defendant Steelhorn, a mental health supervisor, interviewed Plaintiff on that day and noted that she could smell the infection (Id.). She indicated that she would check into a soft diet but warned Plaintiff it would not be tasty (Id.). Plaintiff followed up with Defendant Lashbrook a final time about his May 10, 2017 grievance, but he received no response (Id.).

         Defendant Wexford has an official policy of denying examinations and other medical care to inmates during institutional lockdowns (Id. at 27). Defendants Oakley, Moll, Kirk, Chadderton, Dunn, Hamby, Asselmeier and Newbold all acted or failed to act because of the policy or lack thereof (Id.). Defendant Wexford should have a policy or procedure to provide treatment for diabetic prisoners with periodontal gum disease even during a lock-down (Id. at 28-29). Because they did not have a practice of treating prisoners with serious dental conditions, Plaintiff was forced to endure pain and suffering from April 23, 2017 to May 17, 2017 (Id.). Defendant Lashbrook participated in the harmful custom or policy by allowing Plaintiff's condition to go untreated during the lockdown (Id.).

         Defendant Gail Walls failed in her position as healthcare administrator to respond to any of Plaintiff's requests for urgent care from April 23, 2017 onward (Doc. 1-1 at 1). Walls was on notice of the severity of Plaintiff's periodontitis because he had x-rays documenting the condition in his medical file (Id. at 1-2). Walls maintained a policy or procedure of providing “arbitrary” healthcare during lockdowns (Id. at ...

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