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Gressel v. Thorpe

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 21, 2016




Plaintiff Shane Gressel is a prisoner in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections currently housed at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution. Plaintiff, through counsel, filed a complaint alleging that when he was housed at the Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI), DOC staff failed to provide adequate dental care and caused him unnecessary pain. Plaintiff paid the court-assessed initial partial payment of the filing fee.

The next step is for the court to screen the complaint and dismiss any portion 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 cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. After considering plaintiff’s allegations, I will dismiss his complaint for failing to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and I will direct him to file an amended complaint that clarifies his deliberate indifference allegations.


I draw the following facts from plaintiff’s complaint.

On April 27, 2011, while incarcerated at CCI, plaintiff filed a request for dental services, stating that one of his fillings had fallen out and that he was in pain. Plaintiff received treatment at CCI’s Health Services Unit (HSU) on June 29, 2011. A hygienist determined that three of plaintiff’s teeth (numbers 2, 5, and 12) “needed dental treatment”; plaintiff does not explain what “needed treatment” means. Plaintiff saw a dentist that same day, but the dentist did not treat those teeth.

About one year later, on July 1, 2012, plaintiff filed a second request for dental services, stating that he was in pain. Unidentified HSU staff informed plaintiff that they had placed him on the waiting list. Plaintiff submitted a third request for treatment on August 5, 2012. Again, HSU staff placed plaintiff on the waiting list.

On September 19, 2012, plaintiff wrote a letter to defendant Karen Anderson, the HSU manager, stating that he needed dental treatment (again, plaintiff is not specific) and that he was in pain. A registered nurse responded to plaintiff’s letter and informed him that CCI staff had determined that his dental needs were not emergencies and that he would not receive treatment in the foreseeable future.

On October 17, 2012, plaintiff complained to an HSU officer that he had been waiting for over a year to receive dental treatment; HSU scheduled a next-day dentist appointment for plaintiff. Defendant James Thorpe, a DOC dentist, and defendant Lovell, a DOC hygienist, treated plaintiff on October 18, 2012. They concluded that two of plaintiff’s teeth (numbers 14 and 20) needed attention; they did not treat teeth 2, 5, or 12. Neither Thorpe nor Lovell consulted plaintiff’s dental records.

On November 6, 2012, plaintiff filed another request for dental services, stating that his untreated teeth were still painful. Again, plaintiff does not specifically identify what ailed him or what treatment he sought. Defendant Thorpe responded that he had placed plaintiff on the waiting list.

Because HSU staff continued to place plaintiff on the waiting list, plaintiff began filing administrative complaints. On September 28, 2012, plaintiff filed an administrative complaint alleging that CCI dental staff had refused to treat him. Joanne Lane (not named as a defendant) dismissed plaintiff’s complaint with modification; Lane determined that plaintiff had been experiencing severe dental problems but that his treatment requests had not been specific enough to alert DOC staff to the fact that his problems required prompt attention. Lane dismissed the complaint but forwarded it to HSU for review and to determine whether to treat plaintiff.

In October 2012, plaintiff filed a second administrative complaint alleging that the DOC had prevented him from viewing his medical records. Defendant Kelly Trumm denied the complaint as moot because defendants Thorpe and Lovell had gone over the records with plaintiff. Plaintiff maintained that this “records review” never happened. Administrative reviewers eventually reversed defendant Trumm’s decision. Plaintiff does not explain how this administrative complaint and its underlying facts are relevant to plaintiff’s claims here.

Plaintiff filed a third administrative complaint after HSU staff refused to treat a filling that had come loose in November 2012. Defendant Thorpe determined that he would fill plaintiff’s cavities at a later date, and, as a result, administrative reviewers dismissed the complaint.

Plaintiff filed a fourth administrative complaint after DOC staff treated one of plaintiff’s teeth but did not attend to all of his dental issues. Defendant Trumm recommended dismissing the complaint as untimely, ...

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