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Laque v. Adkinson

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

August 1, 2019

MICHAEL W. LAQUE, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL ADKINSON, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Michael Laque, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, sues Defendants Dr. James Sheppard, Nurse Cindy Weeks and Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly depriving him of adequate dental treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Defendants have moved for summary judgment. ECF Docs. 93, 94. Plaintiff responded in opposition (ECF Doc. 101) and Defendants filed a reply (ECF Doc. 102). The motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C). Considering the parties' submissions, the record and the relevant law, the undersigned recommends that the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Docs. 93, 94) be GRANTED.

         I. Legal Standard

         “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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law, and it is “genuine” if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational fact finder to find for the nonmoving party. Id. Summary judgment is not appropriate “if a reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference introduces a genuine issue of material fact.” Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 594 (11th Cir. 1995). Generally, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Plaintiff) and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009).

         II. Facts

         Plaintiff's claims relate to events that occurred while he was a pretrial detainee at the Walton County Jail (“WCJ”) from December 28, 2016, to July 12, 2017. The facts pertinent to the resolution of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment are drawn from Plaintiff's verified third amended complaint[1] (ECF Doc. 84), the evidence submitted by Defendants (ECF Doc. 94, ECF Doc. 102-1) and the evidence submitted by Plaintiff (ECF Doc. 101 at 14-19).[2] Nevertheless, matters stated below as “facts” for purposes of summary judgment review may not be the actual facts. See Montoute v. Carr, 114 F.3d 181, 182 (11th Cir. 1997).

         Plaintiff was arrested and booked into the Escambia County Jail (“ECJ”) in October 2016. ECF Doc. 94-2 at 1. In December 2016, Plaintiff began experiencing pain around a molar on the lower left side of his mouth. ECF Doc. 84 at 7. He complained about the issue to officials at the ECJ on December 15. Id.

         On December 28, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to the WCJ.[3] ECF Doc. 94-2 at 4. During his initial medical evaluation, Plaintiff told Dr. James Sheppard he “had a dental issue, that [his] tooth was starting to give [him] problems.” ECF Doc. 94-1 at 4. However, Plaintiff's “tooth wasn't acting up to that degree at that time, . . . and [Dr. Sheppard] said if [Plaintiff] had any problems to fill out a sick call.”[4] Id.

         On December 30, 2016, Plaintiff requested a temporary filling for his molar, but he failed to appear for sick call the next morning. ECF Doc. 94-2 at 17. On January 2, 2017, Plaintiff reported his molar had lost its filling, which he claimed left nerves exposed and caused constant pain. Id. at 18. He stated the temporary filling did not work and asked that the tooth be removed. Id. The following day at sick call, Plaintiff was informed that if his family made payment arrangements with a dentist, WCJ staff would transport him to an appointment. Id. An examination revealed no signs or symptoms of an abscess and Plaintiff was given ibuprofen and Orajel. ECF Doc. 94-4 at 1.

         On January 5, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a grievance about his treatment, the lack of an onsite dentist and his inability to pay for an outside dentist; he demanded to have his tooth extracted. ECF Doc. 94-2 at 20. After Nurse Cindy Weeks denied the grievance, Plaintiff appealed the denial on January 10. Id. Tammy Godwin denied the appeal on January 11; Godwin wrote:

Denied. The medical staff have stated that you do not need to see a dentist at this time. You may request a dental visit from Escambia county, but the medical staff at Walton have assessed your dental issue and find no[] reason for a visit to a dentist at this time.


         Plaintiff also submitted a sick-call request on January 5 for his “toothache.” Id. at 21. Plaintiff, however, failed to appear for sick call on January 6. Id. Thus, later that day he submitted another sick-call request indicating his toothache made it difficult to eat and sleep. Id. at 22. Nurse Dawn Cooper examined Plaintiff on January 7 and found no facial swelling and no swelling in his gums; she issued him a refill of Orajel. ECF Doc. 94-3 at 6. Cooper also offered a written response to Plaintiff's January 7 sick-call request:

If you have family/friend to pay for dental appointment our facility will transport you. Escambia County no longer has a Dentist on staff therefore we have been instructed by Escambia County to follow our Dental Protocol. We only provide Emergency Dental Care at the Discretion of the Jail Doctor. I enc[ourage] good oral hygiene and warm salt water gargles. Report any facial swelling or temp to medical staff. You can also try the temp filling to pack into the hole.

ECF Doc. 94-2 at 22.

         On January 10, Plaintiff reported his Orajel had been stolen and asked for a replacement. Id. at 24. On January 12, Plaintiff requested a refill of his pain medication. Id. at 25. Both of these requests were granted by the WCJ medical staff. ECF Doc. 94-1 at 11; ECF Doc. 94-2 at 24-25; ECF Doc. 94-3 at 6.

         Plaintiff submitted a sick-call request on January 20 describing his issue as “cracked tooth . . . swollen lymphnode . . . swollen jaw . . . EXTREMELY PAINFUL.” ECF Doc. 94-2 at 28. When he arrived at medical, he indicated he had been having problems “but [he] bit down on something and it's excruciating[ly] painful.” ECF Doc. 94-3 at 6. An examination revealed mild swelling of his left lower jaw, no gumline swelling, mild enlargement of the left lymph node and no fever. Id. Plaintiff states his “molar developed an abscess.” ECF Doc. 84 at 7. Medical staff at the WCJ “started [Plaintiff] on clindamycin on [January 21] and 600 mg ibuprofen (2x) daily with salt water rinses, but [he] still saw no doctor or dentist.” Id.

         On January 21, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a grievance which indicated he had a “cracked tooth that is causing constant pain, problems eating, and headaches.” ECF Doc. 94-2 at 29. Plaintiff admitted he was being treated with salt water rinses, ibuprofen and clindamycin but argued that was “not a solution to the issue . . . only a buffer at best.” Id. Nurse Weeks responded to the grievance on January 25, noting she saw Plaintiff at 12:30 a.m. and Escambia County would not “pay for a dental trip unless [he met] the criteria for care.” Id. Weeks stated his current treatment “should help resolve the problem, ” but offered to move him to the infirmary for further observation if he continued to experience discomfort. Id. at 29-30.

         Plaintiff submitted another sick-call request on January 23 stating his “tooth issue [was] not getting any better” and requesting that it be pulled. Id. at 31. On January 24, WCJ staff observed no facial swelling, no drainage and instructed Plaintiff to complete the antibiotics. Id.; ECF Doc. 94-4 at 6. Staff also advised Plaintiff that if he had “someone to pay for a dental visit [the WCJ could send him] to the dentist per ECJ.” ECF Doc. 94-2 at 31.

         On January 25, Plaintiff submitted a request to Escambia County, stating he had “an abscess tooth with swelling, extreme pain, drainage, and sometimes fever.” Id. at 32. He asserted “the tooth is cracked into the gum line ...

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