United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL P. MILLS, District Judge.
Randy Dale Jackson, a Mississippi inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed suit against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his dental needs and a violation of his due process rights. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, and Jackson has responded. Having reviewed the submissions and arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' motions should be granted, for the reasons that follow.
Jackson is an inmate in the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC") who is currently housed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary ("MSP") at Parchman. He initially filed the instant § 1983 action against MSP dentist, Dr. Frederic Dunn, and MSP medical director, Dr. Lorenzo Cabe, alleging that they acted with deliberate indifference to his dental needs. Jackson maintains that he has a long and documented history of dental problems, and that he currently has ill-fitting dentures and is in need of several crowns on his teeth. He alleges that Dr. Dunn has examined him and determined that he needs crowns on some of his teeth, but that Dr. Dunn has informed him that MDOC does not provide crowns.
Jackson contends that MDOC standard operating procedures state that dental services are provided upon a showing of need, and he filed an Administrative Remedy Program ("ARP") request seeking to have crowns placed on his teeth. He alleges that Dr. Cabe, the MSP medical director, rejected his request, thereby denying Jackson necessary dental services in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Jackson also alleges that he had several teeth pulled between 2000 and 2002, and that the missing teeth cause facial distortion that has resulted in psychological trauma. He contends that his dental issues cause him anxiety, and that he has problems properly digesting food due to his inability to chew food well. He alleges that he is entitled to dental services that include crowns on several of his teeth and implants to hold his partial dentures in place.
After filing his initial pleading, Jackson amended his complaint to include an allegation against Faye Noel, the interim warden at MSP. Jackson maintains that he received a rule violation report ("RVR") after he was falsely charged with assaulting another inmate, and that he lost his job assignment and was placed in administrative segregation as a result. He alleges that Defendant Noel violated his due process rights by failing to expunge the allegedly false RVR.
As a result of these alleged violations, Jackson seeks monetary damages and an order requiring MDOC to refer him to an off-site specialist who can provide him dental implants and offer restorative care to his teeth.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is proper only when the pleadings and evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, illustrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is deemed "material" if "its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law." Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Texas, 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). Once the motion is properly supported with competent evidence, the nonmovant must show that summary judgment is inappropriate. Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmovant cannot rely upon "conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions" to satisfy his burden, but rather, must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue as to every essential element of his claim. Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); Morris, 144 F.3d at 380. If the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " then there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no proof is presented, however, the Court does not assume that the nonmovant "could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
Because Jackson is proceeding pro se, his pleadings are construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
A. Dental Care
Jackson claims that Drs. Dunn and Cabe have departed from the appropriate standard of dental care in refusing to provide him with treatment to correct his dental problems, and he maintains that they have failed to comply with their own policy by failing to ensure that he receives restorative dental care. Attached to Jackson's response to the pending motions for summary judgment is the "Dental Services" policy MDOC implemented in 2004. ( See Pl. Response in Opposition to MSJ , 11-13). This policy provides that referrals for oral surgery specialists will be made according to need, and that "[d]ental prostheses will be provided only as medically necessary." ( Id. ). Jackson maintains that this policy establishes his right to have crowns placed over his teeth, and that Defendants' refusal to comply with this policy constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
When the condition of an inmate's teeth or gums seriously affects his health, he has a right to dental care under the Eighth Amendment. See Williams v. Mason, 210 F.App'x 389 (5th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). An inmate suing for a violation of his right to medical care under § 1983 must demonstrate that an official acted with deliberate indifference to the inmate's serious dental needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1978). The test for establishing deliberate indifferent is "one of subjective recklessness as used in the criminal law." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 839-40 (1994). In order to state a claim under § 1983 of deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical condition, the inmate must demonstrate that the prison official ...