McDowell v. Hardy et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order. Signed by the Honorable Thomas M. Durkin on 1/23/2017. Mailed notice. (eg,)
UNrmo Smtps Dlstnrct Counr
Nonrnpnu Dlstntct or Ir,r,rNors
No. 13 C 3375
Judge Thomas M. Durkin
Reuov Prlsren, in his official capacity;
MARcus Hanov; Sar,venonn A. Goo[vsz;
Dn. LouIs Srucxpn; er.ro Tannv
Antonio McDoweII is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of
Corrections ('IDOC") at Stateville Correctional Center
in Illinois. He alleges that
IDOC staff were deliberately indifferent to his dental needs in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. R. 26. Specifica1ly, McDowell has sued Stateville's former
Warden, Marcus.Hardy; Stateville's former Warden, Tarry Williams; former IDOC
Director, Salvadore Godinez; and former IDOC Medical Director, Dr. Louis Shicker,
and alleges that they are responsible for the IDOC's policy against performing root
canals on posterior teeth (i.e., molars). See id. Defendants have moved for summary
judgment.R.72. For the following reasons, Defendants'motion is granted.
is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a);
also Celotex Corp. u. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986). The Court considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all
of the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmovant. Ball u. Kotter,723 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2013).
To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more than "a mere
scintilla of evidence" and come forward with "specific facts showing that there is
genuine issue for trial." Harris N.A. u. Hershey,711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013).
Ultimately, summary judgment is warranted only
if a reasonable jury could not
return a verdict for the nonmovant. An"derson u. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.5.242,
20L2, McDowell experienced pain and decay
in two of his molars (*H
and 14). He filed grievances seeking a dental examination and sent a letter to
Warden Hardy in March 20t2. See R. 26-l at l-2. He was examined by Dr. Kenneth
Brooks, D.D.S., on September 12 and 26, 2012, and provided with pain management
treatment. R. 82 tl
McDowell continued to experience tooth pain and decay. He submitted a
grievance on October 1,20L2, see R. 26-l at 3, and sent a letter to Warden Hardy on
October 7, 20L2, see id. at 4, but he does not know whether Warden Hardy received
the letter. R. 82 fl 23. McDoweII submitted. a d.ental treatment request on November
McDoweII was seen by a dentist on November 20, 2012, who recommended
extraction of tooth #14, which McDowell refused. Id. tTfl 25-26. McDowell saw Dr.
Brooks again on March 8, 2013, who also recommended that tooth #14 be extracted,
which McDowell again refused because he wanted a root canal instead. /d.
Extraction of tooth #13 was also recommended at dental visits on JuIy
20L3, and August
2, 2013. Id. fltT 31-32. McDowell eventually consented to
extraction of tooth #13 on September 20, 20L3. Id. n 36. McDowell testified that the
extraction relieved his pain. R.74-2 at 28 (103:17-19).
some point thereafter, McDoweII again began experiencing pain
#14. On July 9, 20L4, he had an appointment with a dentist who recommended
extraction of tooth #14 even though
was "asymptomatic." R. 82
McDowell refused extraction. Id. n 40.
On August 7, 20t4, an IDOC grievance officer filed a report regarding
McDowell's grievance seeking a root canal rather than extraction of tooth #14. R.
8L-3. The grievance officer denied McDowell's grievance because "root canals are
performed on the front teeth and canine teeth only per IDOC policy. .Id. (emphasis
added). Warden Williams signed. this report.Id..Dr.Brooks also testified. that
against IDOC policy to perform root canals on molars. R. 81-4 at 6 (19:18-20:1, 1722);
(60:11-r4); 17 (65:8-11).
McDowell seeks damages
compensation "for the pain arising from the
intentional unavailabfuty of appropriate medical treatment," i.e., a root canal. R.26
at 7. 'A plaintiff bringing a civil rights action must prove that the
in or caused the unconstitutional actions."
Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 776 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Alejo u. Heller, 328 F.3d 930,
936 (7th Cir. 2003)). A plaintiffs allegations against a prison official can only satisfu
"the personal responsibility requirement of Section 1983
if the conduct
constitutional deprivation occurs at [the official's] direction or with his knowledge
and consent." Arnett u. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 757 (7th Cir. 2011). "That is, [the
official] must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or
turn a blind
Id. "In short, some causal connection or affirmative link between
the action complained about and the official sued is necessary for $ 1983 recovery."
-Id. Thus, although a prison official is "entitled to relegate to the prison's medical
staff the provision of good medical cate," Burhs u. Raernisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th
Cir. 2009), "nonmedical officials can be chargeable with . . . deliberate indifference
where they have a reason to believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors or
their assistants are mistreating (or not treating) a prisoner." Arnett, 658 F.3d at
McDowell has not presented any evidence that Director Godinez
Shicker were personally involved
in his treatment. With respect to
Godinez, McDoweII argues only that he "is expected to know and understand the
policies and procedures of the IDOC because he is the ultimate decision maker
to the grievance process." R. 79 at 9. Similarly, McDowell argues that
Dr. Shicker "effectively endorsed the policy by failing to permit the treating dentist
to consider whether even an endodontic examination was appropriate." Id. To the
extent Director Godinez and Dr. Shicker were, or should have been, aware of a
policy against performing root canals on molars, there is no evidence that they had
any knowledge of this policy's application to McDoweII. Both of them are IDOC
officials and do not work at Stateville. Since there is no evidence supporting an
inference that Director Godinez or Dr. Shicker had any personal involvement in
McDowellls treatment, they must be dismissed from the case.
McDowell argues that there is evidence of personal involvement on the part
of Warden Hardy and Warden Williams in the grievance process. Mere receipt of
grievances from a prisoner is insufficient to establish that a prison warden was
in any deficient
medical care provided to the prisoner.
Owens u. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011) ('[T]he alleged mishandling of
Owens's grievances by persons who otherwise did not cause or participate
underlying conduct states no claim.");
also George u. Smith,507 F.3d 605, 609
(7th Cir. 2007) ("Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not
cause or contribute to the violation."); Neely u. Rand,le, 2013 WL 3321451,
(N.D. IIl. June 29, 20LB)
('If there is 'no personal involvement by the warden [in an
inmate's medical care] outside the grievance process,' that is insufficient to state a
claim against the warden." (quoting Geuas u. Mitchell, 492 Fed. App'x 654, 660 (7th
Cir.2Ol2))). However, written notice to prison administrators may form the basis of
deliberate indifference claim,
if the plaintiff can "demonstrate that
communication, in its content and manner of transmission, gave the prison official
sufficient notice to alert him or her to an excessive risk to inmate health or safety."
Arnett,658 F.3d at 755.
is no evidence that Warden Hardy actually
guievances. But even
if he did,
those grievances were submitted prior to McDowell
receiving any extraction diagnosis. The record shows that McDowell was first
advised to have tooth #14 extracted on November 20, 20L2, whereas the grievances
and letters Warden Hardy purportedly reviewed were submitted
in March 20L2.
There is no evidence that Warden Hardy was ever aware that McDoweII sought a
root canal. Consequently, Warden Hardy cannot have had personal involvement in
the decision to deny McDowellls request. Thus, McDowell's claims against Warden
Hardy must be dismissed.
By contrast, Warden Williams signed the grievance officer's report stating
that an IDOC poii.y existed prohibiting a root canal on McDowell's molars. This is
sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Warden Williams knew that McDowell was
unable to receive a root canal due to IDOC policy.
It is also reasonable to draw the
inference that Warden Williams had the authority to authorize exceptions to that
policy or seek its revision. Warden Williams's signature on the grievance officer's
report is sufficient evidence to demonstrate a material question of fact regarding his
involvement in McDowell's treatment.
Both McDowell's remaining personal capacity claim against
Williams, and McDowell's official capacity claim (which can only be brought against
the current warden of the facility where he is incarcerated),l contend that a policy
against providing root canals for molars violates the Eighth Amendment. "Prison
officials violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment when they display deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of
prisoners." Hayes u. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008). To establish
deliberate indifference claim under this standard, a plaintiff must show (1) that the
plaintiff suffered an objectively serious risk of harm, and (2) that the defendant
with a subjectively culpable state of mind in acting or failing to act in
d.isregard of that risk. .Boe u. Elyea,631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011). Nevertheless,
I State officials acting in their official capacities are immune to claims for damages
under Section 1983. See Hafer u. Melo,502 U.S. 2L, 27 (1991) ("State offrcers sued
for damages in their official capacity are not 'persons' for purposes of the suit
because they assume the identity of the government that employs them.")
(emphasis added). The only relief available to McDowell against Defendants in their
official capacities is injunctive relief. See Will u. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491
U.S. 58, 7L n. 10 (1989) ("Of course a state official in his or her official capacity,
when sued for injunctive relief, would be a person under S 1983 because officialcapacity actions for prospective relief are not treated as actions against the State.").
McDowell seeks such relief in the form of an exam by an endodontist. See R. 26 at 67. A suit seeking this type of relief is best directed against the warden who has
custody of McDowell and who "would be responsible for ensuring that any injunctive
relief is carried out." See Gonzalez u. Feinerman,663 F.3d 311, 315 (7th Cir. 2011).
Stateville's current warden is Randy Pfister. Thus, the Clerk of Court is directed to
add Randy Pfister in his offi.cial capacity as a defendant. See id. ("we substitute
[the] current warden . . . as defendant").
the "Constitution is not a medical code that mandates specific medical treatment."
Jachson u. Kotter,541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008). And "evidence that another
doctor would have followed a different course of treatment is insufficient to sustain
a deliberate indifference claim." Burtoru u. Downey, 805 F.3d 776, 786 (7th Cir.
2015). Rather, "medical professionals
are entitled to deference
decisions unless no minimally competent med.ical professional would have
responded under the circumstances at issue." McGee u. Adams,721 F.3d 474, 48L
(7th Cir. 2013) (emphasis added). In other words, "[w]hen a medical professional
professional capacity, he may be held
to have displayed deliberate
if the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure
from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to demonstrate that
the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment." .Id.
The Court sympathizes with McDoweII's argument that "extraction of a body
part is an extreme remedy," R. 79 at 5, which might be thought to serve as an
limit on the deference the Court must give to the treatment decisions of
medical professionals. Unfortunately for McDowell, however, the Seventh Circuit
has already spoken on policies like the one at issue here, and held that they do not
violate the Eighth Amendment. See Mathews u. Raemisch, 5L3 Fed. App'x 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2013) ('The district court correctly found that the prison is offering [the
plaintiff-inmate] an extraction procedure and that this dispute is over nothing but
the choice of one routine medical procedure versus another. That is not enough to
prove an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference."); see also McGowan
u. Hulich,612 F.3d 636, 641 (7th Cir. 2010) ('[The
plaintiffs] complaint focuses only
on [the defendant's] decision to extract the tooth rather than to filt
it . . . . n
end, this dispute is over nothing but the choice of one routine medical procedure
versus another, and that is not enough to state an Eighth Amendment claim."). And
other district courts have reached the same conclusion. See Powell u. Marlais, 2016
at *13 (N.D. Cal. Sept.29,20LB) ("In determining whether [the
defendant] provided unconstitutional medical care when he proposed extracting
tooth 23 and refused to authorize root canal treatment, the dispositive question is
whether the proposed treatment was medically unacceptable, and not whether
there were alternative acceptable medical treatments available."); Ciaprazi
(S.D.N.Y. Sept. 6,2016) ("But even
plaintiffs] teeth could have been treated with root-canal therapy,
violate the Eighth Amendment for [the New York State Department of Corrections]
to offer him only extraction. As noted by [the expert witness], many states and
Iocalities have policies of offering extraction and not root canals. And many of those
policies-a number of which are even more restrictive than New York's-have been
held to satisfu the Eighth Amendment.") (citing cases). McDowell fails to address
the Seventh Circuit case law on this issue, but its reasoning is binding on this
Court. Therefore, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment, R. 72,
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin
United States District Judge
Dated: January 23,2017
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