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Lucas v. Goodwin

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 7, 2018





         Plaintiff Lee Lucas ("Lucas") brings this action under 42 U.S.C § 1983, alleging that while incarcerated at David Wade Correctional Center ("DWCC"), he was deprived of dental care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. [Record Document 1]. Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on three pending motions for summary judgment. [Record Document 47]. Lucas has filed one motion, Defendant Daniel Moore ("Moore") has filed a second motion, and Defendants Jerry Goodwin ("Goodwin"), James LeBlanc ("LeBlanc"), Paula Millwee ("Millwee"), Robert Rachal ("Rachal"), and Rahman Singh ("Singh") (collectively, "State Defendants") have filed a third motion. [Record Documents 26, 38, and 40]. Defendants have filed oppositions to Lucas's motion. [Record Documents 34-35].

         For the reasons discussed below, the Report and Recommendation [Record Document 47] is ADOPTED IN PART and REJECTED IN PART. The Court ADOPTS the report's findings that Lucas properly exhausted his administrative remedies against Moore, that neither Moore nor LeBlanc violated Lucas's Eighth Amendment rights, that Lucas's motion for summary judgment should be denied, and that Lucas's injunctive relief claims against Millwee, Rachal, and Goodwin are moot. The Court REJECTS the report's findings that Millwee, Rachal, Goodwin, and Singh did not violate Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment rights, that they are entitled to qualified immunity, and that Lucas's claim against Singh for injunctive relief is moot.

         Lucas's motion for summary judgment [Record Document 26] is DENIED. Moore's motion for summary judgment [Record Document 38] is GRANTED. The State Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Record Document 40] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Summary judgment is GRANTED as to LeBlanc on all claims and as to Millwee, Rachal, Goodwin, and Singh in their official capacities on the issue of monetary damages. Summary judgment is DENIED in all other respects. Lucas's claim for injunctive relief against Millwee, Rachal, and Goodwin is DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Lucas is currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary ("LSP"). [Record Document 46-1 at 3]. Moore is a dentist at DWCC who regularly treated Lucas while he was incarcerated there. [Record Document 1-2 at 2]. Millwee is a registered nurse at DWCC. [Record Documents 1-2 at 2 and 46-1 at 1]. Rachal is the assistant warden at DWCC overseeing medical and dental care. [Record Document 1-2 at 2]. Goodwin is the warden at DWCC. [Id.]. Singh was the medical director for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections ("DOC"), the state entity that operates DWCC. [Id. at 3]. Finally, LeBlanc is the DOC secretary. [Id.].

         When Plaintiff entered DWCC, he had a long span anterior bridge in the upper left side of his mouth; tooth #12 is an abutment for that bridge. [Record Document 46-1 at 9, 21]. As described more fully in the Report and Recommendation, Moore saw Lucas multiple times in 2012 and 2013. [Record Document 47 at 1-3]. After initially diagnosing Lucas's dental pain as sinusitis, Moore upgraded the diagnosis in June 2013 to a fistula at tooth #11 or #12 and prescribed an antibiotic. [Id. at 2-3]. Lucas made no further sick calls requesting dental care until 2015. [Record Document 46-1 at 2]. On March 24, 2015, Lucas reported "extreme pain" and was seen by a DWCC nurse, who referred him for an appointment with Moore. [Record Documents 1-2 at 4 and 46-1 at 2, 15]. Moore examined Lucas on April 30, 2015, prescribed ibuprofin, dramamine, and amoxicillin, and referred him to the Oral Surgery Clinic at University Health-Shreveport ("UH-S"). [Record Documents 1-2 at 4 and 46-1 at 2-3, 16-19].

         Moore's diagnosis and specific directions to UH-S are somewhat unclear from the record. He appears to have concluded that at least one tooth (#11 or #12) was non-vital. [Record Document 46-1 at 19]. He noted that Lucas "needs t[ooth] #11 root canal therapy, which is a procedure that DWCC does not have the resources to provide" and "recommend[ed]" that Lucas be taken to a clinic offering the procedure. [Id. at 17]. However, beside the recommendation that Lucas be taken to an outside clinic, Moore wrote "if needed." [Id.]. On the referral form itself, he wrote that Lucas "needfs] retrofill, " but also, "Please evaluate . . . for apico-ectomy, non vital maxillary teeth on Bridge UL Maxilla." [Id. at 19]. In later notes, Moore indicated that he "had requested" that UH-S "perform [the] retro-fill procedure, " but also that Lucas had been "referred to see if periapical retro fill procedure can be done." [Id. at 20, 22]. Thus, it is unclear from the record whether the external referral was for a particular therapy that DWCC could not perform on-site but that Moore believed was indicated or whether the referral was for an evaluation of whether a root canal, periapical retrofill, or an apicoectomy were appropriate treatments for Lucas.

         On June 26, 2015, Lucas was seen at UH-S. [Record Documents 1-2 at 4 and 46-1 at 3]. Although UH-S offered extraction of the non-vital tooth, Lucas refused this treatment, expressing to the clinic dentist that he desired a root canal. [Record Document 46-1 at 29]. On the form used by DWCC to communicate between outside medical providers and prison staff, the UH-S dentist indicated that the recommended treatment was "dentist for RCT #12." [Id. at 25]. In September 2015, Moore saw Lucas again and again referred him to UH-S, noting that the purpose of the proposed periapical retrofill was "to save the long span bridge which [the affected teeth] are a part of." [Id. at 3, 20]. In his orders, Moore clearly indicated that Lucas was not being sent for extraction and that Moore's intention was for Lucas to be evaluated for his suitability as a candidate for periapical retrofill. [Id. at 20]. This second referral was never executed because UH-S alerted DWCC by letter that it lacked the "capabilities to perform root canal therapy or any retrofill procedures." [Id. at 21]. Rather than indicating that UH-S found Lucas an unsuitable candidate for these treatments, the letter only states that UH-S cannot perform them. [Id.]. On October 30, 2015, Moore again saw Lucas, noted that he had "refused extraction at UH-S, " and prescribed an antibiotic and mouth rinse to treat the fistula. [Id. at 22]. Five weeks later, Lucas was seen by a different DWCC dentist, who also noted that Lucas "refused ext. #12 at UH-S." [Id. at 23]. It is unclear from the record whether Moore or this other dentist offered Lucas extraction or whether Lucas only refused extraction when offered by UH-S. Throughout this time, Lucas was in "constant and continuous pain." [Record Document 1-2 at 5].

         In an attempt to investigate his situation, Lucas wrote several letters to Moore. [Record Document 1-2 at 4 and 26-3 at 21-23]. Moore replied to one, indicating that he relied on UH-S's diagnosis that Lucas had a fistula between tooth #11 and tooth #12. [Record Document 26-3 at 23]. Some evidence indicates that Moore may have told Lucas that Moore would suggest to Millwee that Lucas be transferred to a different DOC facility so that his dental needs could be met. [Id. at 22]. It is unclear whether Moore made this suggestion to Millwee, but Lucas was transferred to LSP in April 2016; the reason for the transfer does not appear in the record. [Record Document 46-1 at 3].[1]

         B. Procedural Background

         Lucas filed a complaint seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Defendants in their individual and official capacities and an injunction requiring his immediate transfer to LSP and the provision of dental care recommended by an independent dentist. [Record Document 1-2 at 8-9]. Lucas subsequently moved for a preliminary injunction on the same grounds, [Record Document 3]; this motion was denied as moot as a result of Lucas's transfer, [2][Record Document 8]. Upon initial review, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of Lucas's complaint as frivolous. [Record Document 7]. The Court declined to adopt this recommendation. [Record Document 8]. Moore then moved for dismissal for failure to follow the procedures mandated by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, [Record Document 15]; the Court denied the motion, accepting the Magistrate Judge's finding that Lucas alleged Moore's deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment, not his medical negligence, [Record Documents 21 and 25].

         C. The Instant Motions

         In his motion, Lucas argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because the "defendants' failure to provide prompt, reasonable, and adequate dental care to his serious dental needs, constituted deliberate indifference" and because the State Defendants failed to correct the alleged denial of adequate dental treatment through the Administrative Remedy Procedures ("ARP") process. [Record Document 26-1 at 2-4]. Moore argues that Lucas failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that the dental care Moore provided was not inadequate and did not evince deliberate indifference. [Record Document 38 at 2-3]. The State Defendants assert that they are entided to qualified immunity. [Record Document 40 at 2]. Millwee argues that she was not deliberately indifferent and therefore committed no constitutional violation. [Record Document 40-2 at 8]. Although framed in terms of qualified immunity, Goodwin, Rachal, Singh, and LeBlanc argue that Lucas's allegations do not establish supervisory liability under § 1983. [Id. at 10-11].

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs a court to "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."[3] Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party, the moving party need not produce evidence to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it need only point out the absence of supporting evidence. See Id. at 322-23. However, "if the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue, ... he must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor." Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Or. 1986).

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for trial by going "beyond the pleadings" and "designating] specific facts" for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Or. 1994) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). "This burden is not satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, " by conclusory or unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere "scintilla of evidence." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1985) (citing Adickesv. S. H. Kress & Co.,398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating the credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary judgment where the ...

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