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Singer v. Schettle

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 30, 2018

KEVIN T. SINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. SCHETTLE, WCI DENTAL ASSISTANT, WCI HSU MEDICAL SUPERVISOR, and WCI WARDEN, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Kevin T. Singer, an inmate incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI), brings this civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants, WCI officials, failed to respond adequately to his medical needs. Singer has paid the initial partial filing fee for this action as ordered by the court.

         The next step is for me 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. §§ 1915 & 1915A. In screening any pro se litigant's complaint, the court must read the allegations of the complaint generously. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). I will allow Singer to proceed on Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims against defendants Dr. Schettle and John Doe WCI dental assistant. I will deny him leave to proceed against defendant John Does WCI HSU medical supervisor and WCI warden. I will allow him the opportunity to supplement his complaint with information relevant to additional claims.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

         I draw the following facts from Singer's complaint, Dkt. 1, and I accept them as true at the screening stage.

         Singer is an inmate at WCI. He's “a very well-known self-cutter” with “many visible scars.” Id. ¶ 2. Defendants work at WCI. Dr. Schettle is the dentist; Singer doesn't know the names of the remaining defendants, so he identifies them by their job titles: dental assistant, medical supervisor, and warden.

         On May 8, 2017, Singer went to the dentist and was told that he had a cavity and needed a tooth extraction. He was also told that he would be charged a co-pay of $7.50 for the procedure. Singer refused to pay the co-pay and threatened the dentist and dental assistant that he would “cut the tooth out” himself if they didn't do it for him. Id. ¶ 13. I infer that the cavity was causing him pain. They refused to perform the procedure.

         On June 1, Singer was called back to the dentist's office. He again refused to pay the co-pay and threatened to perform the procedure himself. The dentist and dental assistant again refused to perform the procedure.

         Sometime after that, Singer tried to extract his tooth himself. On June 9, Singer was called back to the dentist's office. He explained that when he pulled out the tooth, it broke, and some of the pieces remained in his mouth. (Singer doesn't explain what the dentist and dental assistant did in response, if anything.)

         On June 11, Singer went to the health services unit to stop the bleeding in his mouth. The next day, he was called back to the dentist's office. The dentist “waived” the co-pay and extracted the tooth. Id. ¶ 17.

         Throughout this time, Singer had “excruciating pain” and was unable to eat. Id. ¶ 19. At some point, Singer filed a grievance about the dental services, and the warden dismissed it.

         ANALYSIS

         Singer attempts to bring claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from acting with deliberate indifference toward prisoners' serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976). To state a deliberate indifference claim, Singer must allege that each defendant was aware of a serious medical need and consciously failed to take reasonable measures to help him. Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008). A serious medical need is a condition that a doctor has recognized as needing treatment or one for which the necessity of treatment would be obvious to a lay person. Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d 579, 584-85 (7th Cir. 2006).

         I conclude that Singer's cavity was likely a serious medical need. But “the Eighth Amendment does not compel prison administrators to provide cost-free medical services to inmates who are able to contribute to the cost of their care.” Poole v. Isaacs, 703 F.3d 1024, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2012). In his complaint, Singer does not state whether he can afford the co-pay. So I will dismiss Singer's claim against Schettle for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires a plaintiff to include in his complaint “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” I will allow him an opportunity to supplement his complaint to provide additional information about whether he could afford the co-payment. Although the dental assistant was also in the room, I do not take the assistant to have been in a position ...


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