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Poff v. Schettle

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 23, 2017

JEFF POFF, Plaintiff,


          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Court.

         Plaintiff Jeff Poff (“Poff”), a prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, prison officials at Waupun Correctional Institution (“Waupun”), alleging that they acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs-specifically, that they failed to properly treat a tooth he chipped on a rock in his baked beans. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on May 22, 2017. (Docket #59). Poff filed a response on May 26, 2017. (Docket #66 and #67). Defendants replied on June 9, 2017. (Docket #68). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion will be granted and this action will be dismissed.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no 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); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses; the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those tasks to fact finders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).

         2. RELEVANT FACTS

         2.1 Poff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The relevant facts are largely undisputed because Poff did not dispute them. In the Court's amended scheduling order, entered January 23, 2017, Poff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #51 at 3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. Most relevant here is Local Rule 56(b)(2), which obligates the non-movant on summary judgment to file “a concise response to the moving party's statement of facts that must contain a reproduction of each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement of facts followed by a response to each paragraph, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, declarations, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon[.]” Civ. L. R. 56(b)(2)(B)(i).

         Next, on May 22, 2017, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. (Docket #59). In the motion, Defendants also warned Davis about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. Id. at 1-2. He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with Defendants' motion. See Id. at 3-12. In connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #61). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Defendants proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         In response, Poff submitted two documents, neither of which respond to Defendants' statement of facts in compliance with the Federal and Local rules. The first is his brief in opposition to Defendants' motion. (Docket #66). His brief contains a prose recitation of his version of the relevant events, but it neglects to specifically address the numbered paragraphs set forth in Defendants' statement of facts. See Id. at 1-5. Moreover, Poff's factual narrative does not contain citations to any record evidence. Id. Instead, he simply attached over fifty pages of exhibits to the brief, including requests for medical care, medical records, and inmate grievances, without explanation. See (Docket #66-1). Similarly, Poff's other submission, his own “proposed findings of fact, ” provides no citations to actual evidence, nor does it address Defendant's statement of facts in any fashion. (Docket #67). [1]

         Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Poff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Defendants' proffered facts with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. See Waldridge, 24 F.3d at 922; Herman v. City of Chicago, 870 F.2d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 1989) (“A district court need not scour the record to make the case of a party who does nothing.”). Further, while the Court is cognizant that Poff lacks legal training, his utter failure to comply with the rules of procedure is not excusable on that ground alone. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Defendants' facts undisputed for purposes of deciding their motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         2.2 Facts Material to Defendants' Motion

         Poff was an inmate at Waupun. Defendants were at the relevant time all employees of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (“DOC”): Dr. John Schettle (“Schettle”) was a dentist at Waupun; Dr. Man Lee (“Lee”) is the DOC's dental director; Amanda Cole (“Cole”) is a dental hygienist at Waupun; and Jason Jackson (“Jackson”) is a dental assistant at Waupun. As noted above, this case stems from allegedly inadequate medical care Poff received after he chipped his tooth on a rock buried in his food.

         2.2.1 Dental Services for Waupun Inmates

         When inmates enter DOC institutions, they are given an inmate handbook informing them that if they require non-emergency dental attention, they must submit a dental services request to the health/dental services unit. Inmates are informed that if they need to see dental staff immediately for an emergency, they need to alert unit staff of their concern. Waupun's dental services unit receives between 10-25 dental services requests from inmates on a typical day.

         Pursuant to DOC policy, these requests are divided into four categories-emergency, urgent, routine, and hygiene. Under those policies, only the institution dentist is qualified to triage dental services requests. The policy defines a dental “emergency” as a dental problem causing a life-threatening condition and requiring immediate care. Examples include: uncontrolled bleeding, allergic reactions/shock, swelling or fractures causing impaired breathing, high fever from dental infection, or serious trauma.

         An “urgent” request involves a dental condition which, if not addressed in a timely manner, could result in severe pain and suffering. In addition to pain, other factors are considered when scheduling urgent appointments, such as whether the inmate has an exposed nerve, facial swelling, or an inability to eat or sleep. Generally, urgent dental issues are brought to the dental services unit's attention by security or health services staff, not through a dental services request.

         Non-emergency “routine” dental services are elective and provided when requested by the inmate or when determined to be clinically appropriate by the treating dentist. Routine requests are further subdivided into three categories: routine, essential routine, and prosthetic routine. Routine requests include dental conditions that are asymptomatic and for which a delay in completion of up to one year would not result in serious health risks. This includes minor cavities, old but serviceable fillings, prosthetics which are cosmetic only, or denture repairs when the denture remains functional. Essential routine requests include dental conditions which are chronic, asymptomatic, and which if not completed within 6-8 weeks could result in an acute episode. This encompasses advanced cavities, teeth with hopeless prognosis, infected teeth, and care for inmate patients which is relevant to their chronic medical conditions.

         Schettle makes every effort to see inmates who are scheduled on the essential routine wait list within five days. As the dentist at Waupun, Schettle triaged the inmates' dental services requests and identified the proper category of the request, i.e., routine, essential routine, hygiene, etc. Schettle then ...

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