United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Michael Scott is proceeding on a claim that
defendant J. Perttu violated his Eighth Amendment rights by
failing to schedule him to see a dentist for his unfilled
cavity and tooth pain. Now before the court is
defendant's motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #39.
Because the undisputed facts establish that defendant was not
deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's dental needs, I
will grant defendant's motion.
defendant's proposed findings of fact and the evidence in
the record, I find the following facts to be material and
undisputed unless otherwise noted.
Michael Scott is incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional
Institution. Defendant Jodie Perttu is an institution
complaint examiner at Green Bay. In her role as institution
complaint examiner, defendant does not offer medical or
dental opinions and does not have the authority to schedule
an inmate for any medical or dental appointments. She relies
on the opinions of medical and dental treatment providers
when reviewing inmate complaints.
about April 7, 2017, plaintiff filed an inmate complaint
stating that he needed dental care because his gums were
bleeding and that he was having migraine headaches. He also
stated that on March 21, 2017, he received a response from
dental services stating that he was scheduled for a dental
appointment, but as of the date he filed the inmate
complaint, he still had not been seen.
does not have any medical or dental training, experience or
expertise. She contacted dental assistant Heidi Peterson in
the dental services unit. Peterson confirmed that dental
services had received a dental service request from plaintiff
on March 21, 2017, and she stated that a dentist, Dr. Turon,
had reviewed plaintiff's request and placed him on the
list for routine cleaning. Defendant concluded that the
dentist had reviewed, triaged and addressed plaintiff's
request for dental care, so she recommended that his inmate
complaint be dismissed. As for his migraines, defendant
advised plaintiff to contact the health services unit for
help. Lori Alsum, the Heath Services Nursing Coordinator for
Corrections, reviewed defendant's recommendation in her
role as the reviewing authority and dismissed the complaint.
4, 2017, plaintiff submitted another inmate complaint
requesting dental services. Plaintiff complained that he
still had not been seen by dental services and wrote that he
wanted an urgent appointment to get x-rays, have his teeth
cleaned and address his bleeding gums. Defendant rejected the
inmate complaint on the grounds that the issue presented in
the complaint had been addressed in plaintiff's previous
inmate complaint. Plaintiff did not appeal the rejection to
the reviewing authority.
August 14, 2017, plaintiff filed a third inmate complaint
regarding dental concerns. He stated that a piece of filling
had fallen out of his mouth, that he had notified dental
services on June 11 and that he still had not been scheduled
to have the filling replaced. Defendant reviewed the
complaint and contacted dental assistant Peterson. Peterson
responded that a dentist, Dr. Berkers, had reviewed
plaintiff's dental service request, had responded that
plaintiff had refused a scheduled appointment and that
plaintiff would be “placed on the routine list for an
update to examine and further determine his needs.”
Concluding that the dentist had reviewed, triaged and
addressed plaintiff's request for dental care, defendant
recommended that plaintiff's inmate complaint be
dismissed. The reviewing authority, Nursing Coordinator James
LaBelle, dismissed the complaint.
dental records indicate that he refused dental cleaning,
examination and x-ray appointments on May 25, 2017, September
19, 2017 and November 1, 2018.
succeed on his Eighth Amendment claim, plaintiff must prove
that defendant acted with “deliberate
indifference” to a serious medical need. Petties v.
Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2016). A
“serious medical need” may be a condition that a
doctor has recognized as needing treatment or one for which
the necessity of treatment would be obvious to a layperson.
Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d 579, 584-85 (7th Cir.
2006). The condition does not have to be life threatening.
Id. A medical need may be serious if it
“significantly affects an individual's daily
activities, ” Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d
1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997), if it causes significant pain,
Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916-17 (7th Cir.
1996), or if it otherwise subjects the prisoner to a
substantial risk of serious harm, Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825 (1994). “Deliberate indifference”
means that the officials are aware that the prisoner needs
medical treatment, but disregard this need by consciously
failing to take reasonable measures. Forbes v.
Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 266 (7th Cir. 1997).
does not dispute that plaintiff has serious dental needs.
However, defendant contends that plaintiff cannot show that
she was deliberately indifferent to those needs. In
particular, defendant argues that she is entitled to summary
judgment because her only role in plaintiff's dental care
was her decision to dismiss plaintiff's inmate complaints
regarding dental care. I agree with defendant. The evidence
shows that plaintiff filed three inmate complaints regarding
his dental concerns, on April 10, 2017; May 4, 2017; and
August 14, 2017. Defendant did not ignore the complaints or
show deliberate indifference to plaintiff's concerns.
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009)
(stating that deliberate indifference would exist if
complaint examiner “sent each grievance to the shredder
without reading it” or “intervened to prevent the
medical unit from delivering needed care”). Instead,
defendant investigated plaintiff's complaints by
contacting the dental team at the prison and learning that
plaintiff had either recently refused dental treatment or was
on a list to be seen. Defendant recommended dismissal of
plaintiff's complaints after concluding that dental staff
was addressing his needs.
officials are entitled to delegate to the prison's
medical staff the provision of good medical care.”
Id. at 594. And non-medical prison staff are
entitled to defer to the judgment of health professionals so
long as they do not ignore prisoner complaints. Berry v.
Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 440 (7th Cir. 2010). In this
instance, defendant was entitled to rely on the opinions and
advice dental staff that the dentist was aware of
plaintiff's requests for treatment and was addressing
them as the dentist thought appropriate. Johnson v.
Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1010 (7th Cir. 2006)
(non-medical prison ...