Jerrell v. Washington County Detention Center et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable James R. Marschewski on June 6, 2011. (src)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
TOMMY LOUIS JERRELL
Civil No. 09-5060
NURSE RHONDA BRADLEY;
and SHERIFF TIM HELDER
Plaintiff, Tommy Louis Jerrell (hereinafter Jerrell), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. This case is before me for decision pursuant to
the consent of the parties (Doc. 11).
Jerrell contends he was denied adequate medical and dental care while he was incarcerated
at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC). He also contends he was refused transport
to therapy sessions. On April 26, 2011, a bench trial was held. At the conclusion of the trial, the
case was taken under advisement pending preparation of this memorandum opinion.
1. Evidence Presented
This case involves two separate time periods during which Jerrell was incarcerated at the
WCDC. During the first period, Jerrell was incarcerated from September 5, 2008, until September
7, 2008. During the second period, he was incarcerated from November 17, 2008, until June 11,
2009. Until January 14, 2009, Jerrell was a pretrial detainee.
At the hearing, the testimony of the following witnesses was heard:
Vanlaningham; (2) Tommy Jerrell, the Plaintiff; (3) Nurse Rhonda Bradley, a named Defendant; (4)
Cody Caudle; (5) Randall Denzer; (6) Sheriff Tim Helder, a named Defendant; (7) Wesley Watkins;
and (8) Leslie Reese. For purposes of discussion, the testimony of the witnesses will be summarized.
Jerrell is Vanlaningham’s brother. In September of 2008, she testified Jerrell suffered severe
burns to his hands and stomach. When he was released from the WCDC on September 7th, she
testified Jerrell’s burns were grossly infected and his pain level was “horrendous.” He had a shirt
on loosely around his shoulders. She testified she could not recall whether he had pants on.
She first took Jerrell by her home, looked at the wounds, put gauze on them, and then took
him to the Berryville hospital. Personnel there suggested he should be taken to the Burn Center in
Springfield. Vanlaningham took Jerrell to Springfield, Missouri, to be treated at the burn unit of St.
John’s Regional Health Center. He was admitted and remained hospitalized for four days.
During his second incarceration in the WCDC, Vanlaningham testified that Jerrell indicated
numerous times that he was in pain from a bad tooth and was being denied treatment. She also that
Jerrell had some “mental problems” and had suicidal tendencies. Prior to his incarceration,
Vanlaningham indicated Jerrell had been in therapy. She testified she had attempted, through
Jerrell’s attorney, to have him continue with his therapy.
On September 5, 2008, Jerrell testified he suffered severe chemical burns and was seen at the
emergency room at Washington Regional Medical Center. While there, Jerrell indicated his burns
were treated and he was given morphine for the pain. Jerrell testified he only recalls a portion of
the things that happened on September 5th.
Accordingly to Jerrell, he has no recollection of being released from the hospital on
September 5th. However, he indicates he was in severe pain and kept asking for help.
When he was booked into the WCDC later that day, Jerrell was in a hospital gown and had
no medication with him. Defendants’ Exhibit (hereinafter Defts’ Ex.) 2. Jerrell was placed in a cell
by himself. He maintains the cell was dirty and had blood and feces on the wall. He was dressed
only in a suicide smock. Jerrell maintains he kept asking for help, was in severe pain, and his burns
became infected because of the cell’s dirty conditions.
After a period of time, he was moved to a rubber room. During his incarceration from
September 5th to the 7th, Jerrell testified he only received a single pill and he could not recall if it
was an antibiotic or Ibuprofen. Jerrell states that the hospital had given him prescriptions for both
an antibiotic and Perocet, a pain medication. When he was released, Jerrell was told he was being
released on his own recognizance so that he could seek medical attention. Upon release, Jerrell
testified he was given a bag containing an antibiotic and pain medication.
That day, Jerrell was seen at St. John’s Hospital in Berryville, Arkansas. Plaintiff’s Exhibit
(hereinafter Plff’s Ex.) 3. A notation was made that his hand was dressed but that it hadn’t been
debrided. Id. at pg. 3. He was given pain medication and antibiotics; his burns were debrided; an
antibiotic ointment applied, and redressed. Id. at pgs. 2-4. He was referred to the burn center in
Springfield, Missouri. Id.
When he arrived at St. John’s Regional Health Center, Jerrell testified he was in severe pain
and distress. It was noted that the infection was evident and there was a large amount of pus like
drainage. Plff’s Ex. 4 at pg. 6. Jerrell’s burns were excised and grafting was done. Id. at pg. 1.
Jerrell testified that the scarring was worse than it would have been had he received proper treatment
at the WCDC. He did not believe Nurse Bradley had any involvement in his care or treatment in
September of 2008. Jerrell maintains Sheriff Helder is responsible because he runs the jail and
makes the ultimate decisions.
On November 17, 2008, Jerrell was booked back into the WCDC. The only medical
screening done at intake is the inmate medical questionnaire. Defts’ Ex. 10. When he was booked
in, Jerrell states he was crying, severely distressed, and anxious. He testified he was “pretty close”
to taking his own life. He indicated that the other inmates kept him from attempting suicide.
At the time of booking, Jerrell indicates he was under a court order to see a counselor and
had four more appointments. He was not prescribed any medication. Jerrell testified he was suicidal
at the time and needed to continue his therapy. He testified he was transported a single time to Ozark
Guidance Center. After waiting ten to fifteen minutes, they were told the appointment had been
cancelled by the WCDC. Jerrell testified that Bradley had said the WCDC did not transport for
counseling. He asserts his requests for continued therapy were denied.
Jerrell indicates there was no follow-up on the intake medical questionnaire. Jerrell did,
however, speak with Nurse Bradley several times about his various conditions. In response, he
maintains she threatened to put him on lock down. She did, however, inform him that he was on the
list to see the dentist as soon as possible.
On December 7th, Jerrell submitted a medical request indicating he had a broken wisdom
tooth and was in pain. Defts’ Ex. 12. In response, he was placed on the list to see the doctor and
given Ibuprofen on an as needed basis. Id. In total, Jerrell believed that during his incarceration he
submitted twenty or thirty requests or grievances about his tooth.
Jerrell was seen by Dr. Howard on December 9th. Defts’ Ex. 32. Dr. Howard indicated the
tooth needed pulling and wrote “see dentist as possible.” Id. Jerrell was prescribed antibiotics for
ten days. Although Jerrell testified Nurse Bradley told him that he was next on the list to see the
dentist, he was never seen during his incarceration at WCDC. In fact, he testified that Nurse Bradley
told him he was on the dentist list several times. Once he got to the ADC, Jerrell stated his tooth was
pulled within a week. The tooth was still infected and he was put on antibiotics and a pain reliever.
Nurse Rhonda Bradley
Bradley testified she is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and has worked at the WCDC for
nine years. According to Bradley, if an inmate indicates on the medical questionnaire completed at
booking that he had medical issues, he would be evaluated by medical personnel. She testified the
nurses screen the questionnaires to determine if the inmate needs to be seen. If a need for psychiatric
care is indicated, Bradley testified the inmate’s psychiatrist would be contacted and it would be
determined what medication, if any, the inmate was on. When medications are distributed, the
inmate initials the medication log. If there are no initials, the inmate did not get the medication.
With respect to the September 2008 incarceration, Bradley testified there should have been
some follow-up on Jerrell because of the burns, the fact he was wearing a hospital gown when
booked, and the medical issues he identified. However, there was no medical documentation
establishing any follow-up was done. Bradley did not know who reviewed his questionnaire.
With respect to the November 17th booking, Bradley testified there should have been followup because Jerrell listed yes in answer to several questions and noted several problems he was
having. Defts’ Ex. 10. Bradley testified there was no nursing note indicating Jerrell had been seen
by jail medical staff and no follow-up. According to Bradley, Jerrell should have been seen either
that night or the following morning. Bradley could not recall if she was on duty when Jerrell was
booked in. She indicated medical staff work seven days a week.
When she received the December 7th medical request, Bradley testified this was the first time
she was aware Jerrell was having problems with a tooth. She responded to the medical request,
looked at his tooth which was abscessed, prescribed him Ibuprofen, and put him on the list to see the
Jerrell also talked to her about undergoing therapy at the OGC. Bradley called the OGC. She
spoke with the doctors’ receptionist and was told Jerrell had last been seen on October 31, 2008, and
had not been on medication since 2002.
After the doctor said on December 9th, that Jerrell should see the dentist, Jerrell’s name was
placed on the “dental list.” The list is handwritten and kept in a spiral notebook. See Defts’ Ex. 41.
Jerrell’s name was written on the list on December 9th. Id.
According to Bradley, it is difficult to get dentists to see prisoners. As a result, she testified
that they work with a single dentist, Dr. Beavers from Lincoln, Arkansas. The WCDC was using
Dr. Beavers when Bradley first started working at the WCDC. Individual appointments are not made
for the prisoners. Instead, Dr. Beavers’ office would say that they could see a certain number of
prisoners on a given date at a given time. For example, three prisoners at 1:00 p.m. on January 16th.
The list would be consulted and the next three inmates would be taken. On January 16th,
Jerrell’s name came up but he was in court. Defts’ Ex. 41. He was therefore skipped and the
appointment was given to Damien Domnick, the next inmate on the list. Id.
The date to the left of the inmate’s name is the date he is placed on the list. Defts’ Ex. 41.
“ADC APP” means the ADC has approved the dental visit and will pay for it. Just the notation ADC
simply means the inmate has been sentenced to the ADC. “ADC denied” means the ADC denied
the request for dental treatment. A date written after the inmate’s name is the date Dr. Beavers did
dental work on the inmate.
The next time Dr. Beavers saw inmates was on February 4, 2009. The page of the notebook
containing Jerrell’s name was turned without him being sent to the dentist. Bradley testified the only
explanation was that someone thought the list on that page was finished and the appointments were
given to inmates on the next page.
Dr. Beavers saw inmates on February 4th, February 11th, February 18th, February 20th, and
February 25th. Again, Nurse Bradley testified she could only assume someone believed the page
containing Jerrell’s name had been completed. She also asserted that if Jerrell had been sent to the
dentist with an abscessed tooth, he would not be worked on. Instead, he would be prescribed
When it was discovered Jerrell had been missed, he was placed back on the list in the margin
not in the column. On March 27th, Jerrell was put back in the list. His name appeared in the margin
with a notation that ADC had denied his request for dental treatment. From March 27th to May 21st,
because of personal family issues, Dr. Beavers did not see any inmate patients. No steps were taken
to locate another dentist during this time frame.
According to Bradley, the policy, under a different captain, Captain Osborne, was that if the
inmate was ADC property and they denied a request for dental care, we did not send the inmate to
the dentist. This policy has been changed and an inmate in need of dental care is taken regardless
of an ADC denial.
When Jerrell’s name came up again on the dentist list, Bradley testified they had received
ADC’s denial of outside dental treatment. Defts’ Ex. 31. In response to Jerrell’s grievance regarding
his dental problem, Bradley wrote that the ADC had denied his request for dental treatment and he
would be evaluated at intake. Plff’s Ex. 7 page marked 92 of 96. Since Jerrell had been sentenced
and was “ADC’s property,” Bradley testified the WCDC needed approval for the treatment.
However, Bradley testified it was not their practice to delay care while an inmate was awaiting
transfer to another facility. Bradley testified Jerrell did not get dental treatment in a timely manner.
Bradley testified that severe pain can constitute an emergency.
On February 3rd, Jerrell was transported to the OGC for a follow-up appointment. Defts’ Ex.
30. Jerrell had been transported to OGC one other time for a court ordered forensic evaluation.
Bradley testified she completed the medical transport sheet for the February 3rd transport noting on
the bottom: “No Narcotics or Benzodizipines–ADC Property.” Despite this, if the a narcotic or
Benzodizipine medication had been prescribed, Bradley testified the medication would have been
obtained for the inmate.
Bradley denied that she ever told Jerrell or anyone at OGC that the WCDC did not transport
inmates for counseling. Further, she testified there is no policy that prohibited transportation of
inmates for counseling purposes.
Bradley testified that medical staff usually respond to any grievances about medical issues.
She indicated that this is done because other jail personnel do not have the knowledge to response
to medical issues.
In September of 2008, Caudle testified he worked at the WCDC. Caudle was the intake
officer on September 5, 2008. He recalled Jerrell because of the burns he had and the fact he was
in a hospital gown. Defts’ Ex. 2. The intake sheet states Jerrell had no medication with him, was
taking no medication, and had no medical complaints/injuries. Id. Caudle testified it was incorrect
to indicate Jerrell had no medical issues.
When an inmate being booked in is injured, the nurse usually comes and assesses the
situation. If the injuries are too serious, the inmate will be refused. When an inmate is refused, the
arresting agency is responsible for caring for him. Once the inmate had been treated and released,
the arresting agency may bring the inmate back to be booked in.
In Jerrell’s case, the officer who brought Jerrell mentioned that he had been at Washington
Regional prior to being arrested. No one represented that Jerrell had been treated and released.
When someone comes in with suicidal tendencies, he is put in a smock and left to sit on the
chairs in the booking area where he can easily be observed until booking is complete. The inmate
would then be placed in a padded cell on a fifteen minute watch. According to Caudle, there was
no blood or feces in the padded cell. He testified the cell had been cleaned twice that day. Prior to
a new inmate being placed in the cell, Caudle testified it was bleached and mopped.
In November, when Jerrell was booked in again, Caudle testified he remembered Jerrell from
the September incarceration because of the burns. The burns were significant enough to result in
Caudle recalling them to this day.
Major Randall Denzer
Denzer testified he is in command of the jail and is familiar with the policies and practices
of the WCDC. Denzer had no personal knowledge regarding Jerrell’s September 2008 incarceration.
However, because of Jerrell’s injuries, Denzer stated the booking sergeant would have been trying
to get Jerrell out of jail on a signature bond. Jerrell should have been seen by one of the nurses and
it be documented. There is no documentation regarding a medical evaluation or of dressing changes.
According to Denzer, the decision to seek the release of an inmate due to his medical condition does
not affect the treatment the inmate receives. On Sunday morning, Jerrell was released on his own
The intake officer has the right to call a nurse or refuse an inmate. The booking officer
completes the medical questionnaire and fingerprinting. When there is reason to believe an inmate
may make a suicide attempt, the inmate is put in the padded cell or, if it is full, is placed in a booking
cell. Fifteen minute checks are done.
According to Denzer, the WCDC does not have any policy or practice of not providing
medical care. He testified he was not aware of any policy providing that the detention center would
not provide dental care after an inmate was ADC committed.
With respect to dental care, Denzer said he had learned that Captain Osborne took the
position that the WCDC would not pay for dental care for ADC committed inmates. If an inmate
was denied dental care by the ADC, he did not get dental care unless ADC paid for it. According
to Denzer, he and Sheriff Helder were unaware of the decision made by Osborne. Osborne was
captain of the jail and Denzer was Osborne’s supervisor. Osborne resigned and the policy was
changed by Captain Livermore.
Until this lawsuit was filed, Denzer testified he had never seen the dental notebook. Denzer
agreed Osborne’s decision was not right and ADC committed inmates should have been allowed to
go to the dentist. The ADC does ask the WCDC to keep it informed of any medical condition. A
form is submitted indicating what type of care is needed. ADC approval of the suggested treatment
also means the ADC will pay for it. Denzer testified they wanted ADC to pay the costs of medical
and dental care. However, he agreed the facility had a responsibility to provide care without regard
to who paid for the care. Denzer agreed that seven months was too long to wait to see a dentist.
With respect to transportation for counseling, Denzer testified there was no policy or practice
of refusing to provide transportation for counseling. In fact, he indicated transport officers went to
the OGC with inmates on almost an every day basis. Denzer denied that Jerrell was ever denied
transportation to the OGC.
Denzer indicated the cells are cleaned twice a day--morning and afternoon. The inmates
clean with the trustees’ help. The cells are inspected after the cleaning is done. Additionally, he
testified the jailers do hourly checks of the cells.
Sheriff Tim Helder
Helder had no interaction with Jerrell and in fact didn’t know he had been incarcerated at the
WCDC twice until this lawsuit was filed. Helder testified he had no knowledge about Jerrell’s
medical condition, did not know the WCDC policies were not being followed, and had no
knowledge regarding Jerrell’s requests for, or need for, dental care.
If a detainee has a noticeable condition at intake and the determination is made that the
detainee would need more treatment than we could render, Helder testified they either take the
detainee outside the facility to be treated or try as hard as we can to get the detainee out of jail. This
determination would have been based on either the recommendation of a nurse or Dr. Howard.
According to Helder, it has always been the policy of the WCDC to provide treatment to
detainees. Helder denied there was any policy prohibiting the transport of detainees to OGC for
He agreed there is an effort to work with the ADC and hopefully the ADC will pay for the
treatment. Requests for approval of treatment are sent to the ADC as soon as possible. If the
detainee has a serious enough situation, Helder testified they would work the ADC to have the
detainee transferred as quickly as possible.
Helder testified that Osborne had no authority to set policy. Until this lawsuit was filed,
Helder stated he had not heard that Osborne’s practice was not to pay for dental care after an inmate
was ADC committed.
Helder testified he was not involved in the day to day running of the jail. Instead, he stated
he hired competent people to be in charge of the day to day aspects of running the jail. He indicated
that decisions had to be made at lower levels or nothing would get done. He also stated he put in
place an internal process to evaluate detainee complaints. To his knowledge, there had been no
complaints about Nurse Bradley.
With respect to Jerrell’s particular case, Helder testified it was his opinion that Jerrell should
have received dental treatment. Helder stated the failure to treat Jerrell went against the WCDC
Deputy Wesley Watkins
Watkins testified he was a transport deputy in February of 2009 at the WCDC. Watkins did
not personally recall Jerrell. According to Watkins, the transportation log indicates that he and
Deputy Reese transported Jerrell to OGC.
Watkins could not recall transporting Jerrell to OGC when he was not seen. Watkins
indicated that inmates are transported to OGC two to three times per week. Watkins has never told
any inmate that the WCDC did not transport inmates for counseling.
Reese testified that he also reviewed the transport records that indicated he and Watkins
transported Jerrell to the OGC. Reese stated he had no made the statement that the WCDC would
not transport inmates for counseling.
The Eighth Amendment imposes duties on detention center officials to ensure prisoners
receive adequate medical and dental care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment imposes analogous duties on detention center
personnel with respect to pretrial detainees. City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244
(1983). “This makes little difference as a practical matter, though: Pretrial detainees are entitled to
the same protection under the Fourteenth Amendment as imprisoned convicts receive under the
Eighth Amendment.” Kahle v. Leonard, 477 F.3d 544, 550 (8th Cir. 2007). See also Hartsfield v.
Colburn, 491 F.3d 394, 396 (8th Cir. 2007)(deliberate indifference standard applies to pretrial
detainees denial of medical care claim).
“An official who is deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s medical needs is subject to suit
under § 1983.” McRaven v. Sanders, 577 F.3d 974, 979 (8th Cir. 2009). The deliberate indifference
standard “has both an objective and subjective component.” Vaughn v. Gray, 557 F.3d 904, 908 (8th
Cir. 2009). The standard requires a Plaintiff to show: (1) the deprivation alleged is objectively
serious; and (2) the official knew of and then disregarded an excessive risk to the plaintiff’s health
or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Keeping these principles in mind, I turn to an examination of
the claims asserted by Jerrell.
Denial of Counseling Services
“[The duty to provide adequate] medical care encompasses detainees' psychiatric needs.”
Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002)(citations omitted); see also
Vaughan v. Lacey, 49 F.3d 1344, 1346 (8th Cir.1995)(“Prison staff violate the Eighth Amendment
if they are deliberately indifferent to an inmate's serious mental-health-care needs”). Obviously, a
psychiatric or mental condition can constitute a serious medical need and pose a risk of serious harm.
Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2000).
In this case, Jerrell maintains he was told the WCDC would not transport inmates for
counseling services. He supports this claim with his own testimony and with an exhibit consisting
of a single page from his OGC records, dated December 31, 2008, that contains the following
statement by Sally Micheli, a licensed clinical social worker: “Called Washington County to confirm
appt time [February 3rd at 10:00 a.m.] and they responded that unless it concerns crisis and
medication they will not provide transportation for couns[e]ling.” Defts’ Ex. 26.
There is no information on who Micheli spoke with at the WCDC. There is nothing to
suggest that she spoke with either of the Defendants. There is nothing to suggest either Defendant
was personally involved in allegedly denying Jerrell transport for counseling services. Further, while
Jerrell testified he was not seen by OGC staff on February 3rd, he was transported to OGC. See
Defts’ Ex. 30. With the exception of Jerrell, no witness testified to the existence of this policy.
There is simply no evidence of deliberate indifference on the part of the Defendants.
Denial of Dental Care
Dr. Howard, on December 9, 2008, noted the tooth needed to be extracted and the gum was
swollen. An antibiotic was prescribed. In other words, Dr. Howard’s medical opinion was that
Jerrell was in need of dental treatment.
That same day, Jerrell was placed on the list to see the dentist, Defts’ Ex. 41 at pg. 1. Nurse
Bradley testified that no individual appointments were made with the dentist. The WCDC worked
with only a single dentist and had no set schedule for when inmates would be seen. Reference to
the dental list establishes some inmates waited only a couple of weeks to be seen while others waited
months for their name to come up on the list. See e.g., Defts’ Ex. 41 (Inmate Ledgerwood put on list
10/14/08 and seen on 10/31/08; Inmate Clark put on list 11/11/08 and seen on 1/16/09 ). Nurse
Bradley testified the dentist saw no inmates from March 27th to May 21st.
The severity of an inmate’s dental problems were not considered. The only factor considered
was the date inmates were placed on the list. If an inmate was not available on a given date, he was
skipped and he was next in line to see a dentist. This, however, did not happen in Jerrell’s case. By
itself, the error in skipping over Jerrell’s name and failing to recognize by reference to the list that
Jerrell had not received dental care amounts to negligence. Cf. Beers v. Stockton, 242 F.3d 373 (8th
Cir. 2000)(failure to discover until months later that physician had been unaware of certain medical
records amounted to negligence on the part of the nurse in failing to ensure physician reviewed
However, Dr. Beavers rendered dental treatment to inmates on February 4th, February 11th,
February 18th, February 20, and February 25th.
Jerrell continued to suffer from dental pain:
March 1, 2009, toothache--an incident report prepared noting Jerrell’s tooth was
black in the middle and the gums were red and swollen, Plff’s Ex. 7 at pg. marked 68
on March 1, 2009, requesting some Aleve for his abscessed tooth, Id. at pg. marked 81 of 96;
on April 14, 2009, he was seen for a toothache and prescribed an antibiotic and Ibuprofen,
Id. at pg. marked 72 of 96;
on April 15, 2009, asking when he would get to see the dentist. Jerrell states that he had
been told four or five months ago that he would get to see the dentist. He indicated his tooth
had continued to deteriorate, Id. at pg. marked 91 of 96;
on May 7, 2009, complained of a severe toothache and red swollen gums. He indicated it
had now been six months and he still hadn’t seen the dentist. In response, he was told he was
on the next available appointment list, Id. at pg. marked 90 of 96;
on May 7, 2009, asked if he would be getting a special tray since he could not chew any food,
Id. at pg. marked 96 of 96;
on May 11, 2009, he indicated he was scheduled to see the doctor about his tooth and to get
back on antibiotics. Jerrell indicated he believed the abscess tooth has made him sick with
headaches and body aches, Id. at pg. marked 85 of 96;
on May 12th, Jerrell was seen and again prescribed an antibiotic, Id. at pg. marked 73 of 96;
on May 17th, Jerrell complained that Nurse Rhonda told him a month ago that he would be
put back on the dentist list and it would not be long before he got to go to the dentist. He
stated he was still in severe pain from his abscessed wisdom tooth, Id. at pg. marked 93 of
on May 25th, stating he had been waiting almost six months to see the dentist and had been
assured several times by Nurse Bradley that he would get to see a dentist. His tooth is “very
bad & very painful.” In response, Nurse Bradley stated the ADC had denied his request for
dental treatment and advised he would be evaluated on intake, Id. at pg. marked 92 of 96;
While the “Constitution does not require jailers to handle every medical complaint as quickly
as each inmate might wish,” Jenkins v. County of Hennepin, Minn., 557 F.3d 628, 633 (8th Cir.
2009), a delay in treatment, when coupled with the knowledge the inmate is suffering, can support
a finding of deliberate indifference, Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 969 (8th Cir. 1995). Here, the record
clearly establishes that in early December of 2008 it was concluded dental care was needed. Despite
this need and Jerrell’s continued complaints regarding the toothache, Jerrell did not receive dental
care during his incarceration at the WCDC. Once the ADC denied pre-approval for the dental
treatment, the WCDC practice, at that time, was to deny all dental treatment. In short, at that stage,
the WCDC ignored their constitutional duty to provide adequate dental care to inmates in their
I believe the evidence establishes that Nurse Bradley exhibited deliberate indifference to
Jerrell’s serious dental need. As noted above, she became aware of his need for dental care by
December 9, 2008, at the latest. Despite Jerrell’s continual complaints about not receiving dental
treatment, she did not follow-up or take any steps to ensure that he received that care in a reasonable
amount of time. Once the ADC denied the treatment, she stopped any efforts to get Jerrell to a
dentist. By virtue of his incarceration, Jerrell had no way of obtaining dental care himself.
With respect to Sheriff Helder, there is no evidence to show he was personally involved in
any decision with respect to the medical or dental care to be given Jerrell or that he even knew of
Jerrell’s need for dental care. Langford v. Norris, 614 F.3d 445, 460-61 (8th Cir. 2010)(a supervisor
may be held personally liable if he knew that an inmate’s serious medical needs were not being
adequately treatment and remained indifferent). Similarly, the evidence presented established Sheriff
Helder was unaware of Captain Osborne “practice” of refusing treatment of ADC committed inmates
if the ADC did not authorize the treatment.
Denial of Medical Care--September 2008 Incarceration
There is no evidence of deliberate indifference on the part of Nurse Bradley or Sheriff Helder
during this incarceration. Neither were personally involved in deciding what care Jerrell should
receive and there is no evidence they were even aware of his medical needs.
Denial of Medical Care--November 2008 Incarceration
Other than the separately addressed claims of denial of counseling services and of dental care,
there is no evidence to suggest either Nurse Bradley or Sheriff Helder acted with deliberate
indifference to Jerrell’s need for medical care. Jerrell was seen by the nurse or doctor on a number
of occasions. His medical needs were addressed although not necessarily in the way he believed they
should be. Nelson v. Shuffman, 603 F.3d 439, 449 (8th Cir. 2010)(“prisoner’s mere difference of
opinion over matters of expert medical judgment or a course of medical treatment fails to rise to the
level of a constitutional violation.
Damages on the Denial of Medical Care Claim
As noted above, we have concluded Nurse Bradley exhibited deliberate indifference to
Jerrell’s serious need for dental care. Compensatory damages under § 1983 are governed by general
tort-law compensation theory. See Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 255 (1978). In Carey, the
Supreme Court noted that damages are available under § 1983 for actions “found . . . to have been
violative of . . . constitutional rights and to have caused compensable injury.” Id. (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
The fact that an Eighth Amendment violation has occurred “does not
mean that [Jerrell] suffered substantial compensable damages that could be measured accurately.”
Warren v. Fanning, 950 F.2d 1370, 1374 (8th Cir. 1991). The trier of fact “is required to award
nominal damages once it has found cruel and unusual punishment if it has not been able to convert
into dollars the injury and pain a plaintiff has suffered.” Cowans v. Wyrick, 862 F.2d 697, 699 (8th
In this case, some delay in the receipt of dental care would necessarily occur because the
WCDC medical staff does not include any dentists. However, in Jerrell’s case he went from
December 9th, when his dental needs were recognized, to June 11th when he was transferred to the
ADC, without receiving any dental care. During this time, he complained of dental pain, the tooth
being abscessed, and an inability to eat due to the dental problem. Under these circumstances, I
believe it is appropriate to award damages from January 16th. As pain and suffering is not capable
of exact measurement, I believe Jerrell should receive an award of compensatory damages on a per
day basis. He will be awarded $100 per day for the one-hundred and forty- seven days--January 16th
to June 11th.
With regard to punitive damages, punitive damages may be awarded at the discretion of the
fact-finder once sufficiently serious misconduct by one or more of the Defendants is shown to exist.
Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 52 (1983). The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the
Defendants and/or deter similar conduct in the future. See Pacific Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip,
499 U.S. 1, 19-20 (1991). In § 1983 cases, it has been said that punitive damages are appropriate
“when the defendant’s conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves
reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others.” Walters v. Grossheim,
990 F.2d 381, 385 (8th Cir. 1993)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Having given careful consideration to the testimony elicited at the evidentiary hearing, I
conclude Jerrell is not entitled to an award of punitive damages. There is no evidence to suggest
Nurse Bradley’s conduct met the standard required to assess punitive damages.
For the reasons stated, judgment will be entered in favor of the Plaintiff on his denial of
dental care claim. Plaintiff will be awarded judgment in the amount of $14,700 against Defendant
Nurse Rhonda Bradley.
DATED this 6th day of June 2011.
/s/ J. Marschewski
HON. JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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