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Gordon v. Collins

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

September 17, 2014

CARL D. GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELBY COLLINS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

Carl D. Gordon, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that the defendants failed to provide him with adequate dental treatment, retaliated against him, and denied him equal protection. Defendant Dr. Collins moved to dismiss, defendant Dental Assistant Wright moved for summary judgment, and Gordon has responded to both motions, making this matter ripe for disposition. Upon review of the record, I conclude that Gordon has failed to state a claim against Dr. Collins and that Wright is entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, I will grant the defendants' motions.

I.

During the time period relevant to this action (February 2010 to May 2012), Gordon was an inmate at Red Onion State Prison ("ROSP"), and defendant Dr. Collins was ROSP's dentist. Defendant Wright became the dental assistant at ROSP on August 25, 2010. Gordon was transferred to Wallens Ridge State Prison ("WRSP") on May 4, 2012, more than a year before he filed this action.

Gordon alleges that in February 2010, Dr. Collins informed him that Gordon's tooth #18 "had decay on it and needed to be filled, " although there was no hole in it at the time. Gordon states that he was "subsequently placed on the list" for a tooth filling.

On August 2, 2010, Gordon filed an inmate request for information, inquiring as to his wait for a filling in tooth #18. Dr. Collins responded that Gordon was on the list and that when it was his turn, he would be seen. Defendant Wright began working as the dental assistant at ROSP shortly thereafter on August 25, 2010.

On November 28, 2010, April 19, 2011, October 5 and 19, 2011, and March 11, 2012, Gordon filed inmate requests for information, inquiring as to the status of his tooth filling. Dental Assistant Wright responded to all five requests, indicating that Gordon was still on the schedule to see the dentist.

On May 1, 2012, Gordon filed his first informal complaint concerning the delay in receiving a filling in tooth #18. Wright responded and indicated that Gordon was on the schedule. On May 4, 2012, Gordon was transferred to WRSP.

On May 28, 2012, after he was transferred out of ROSP, Gordon filed his first regular grievance about the delay. Gordon alleged, for the first time, that he now had "a large hole in tooth #18" and stated that it was "because the calculus/decay had not been removed and the tooth filled."

Gordon argues that while he was waiting for a filling in tooth #18, "numerous other prisoners" were scheduled to have fillings and they received those fillings "in a matter of weeks."[1] Gordon does not allege the severity of those other inmates' cavities or whether they experienced any pain or other consequential health effects. Gordon alleges that these other inmates were "purpose[ly] moved ahead of" Gordon "as retaliation" for Gordon having filed a lawsuit "involving" Dr. Collins.[2] Gordon claims that Dr. Collins and Wright "intentionally" tried to harm him. Gordon states that he fears that Dr. Collins and Wright might try to "seriously harm" him if they ever treat him again and argues that Dr. Collins has already "demonstrated his maliciousness" during an incident in "early 2010" when Dr. Collins allegedly passed sharp instruments to his dental assistant in front of Gordon's eyes.[3]

Gordon does not allege that he experienced any pain, discomfort, inability to chew food, bleeding, or any other interference with daily life during the time that he was waiting for a filling in tooth #18. Gordon argues however, that the delay "could have" led to "harm to [his] overall health, " including periodontal disease, coronary atherosclerosis, a "myriad of heart problems, " bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), or sepsis, "all of which are capable of causing death." He also claims that "substantial loss of tooth greatly weakens the tooth, even when [it is] filled and can lead to further dental or gum problems and loss of the entire tooth." I note that Gordon does not allege that he experienced any health issue as a result of waiting to receive the filling or that he ever filed an emergency grievance concerning the tooth.

With her motion for summary judgment, defendant Wright filed copies of "Master Inmate Movement Lists" for six different days. Each Master Inmate Movement List ("List") represents a day on which Gordon was scheduled to see the dentist.[4] According to one of the Lists, Gordon was scheduled to see the dentist on October 21, 2010.[5] For unstated reasons, however, only five of the eleven scheduled inmates, none of whom were Gordon, were treated by the dentist that day. Wright explains that because ROSP is a maximum security prison and due to various security concerns, the number of inmates who can be seen by the dentist each day is limited. ROSP requires that inmates in segregation, like Gordon, have two correctional officers with them at all times while they are in the dental clinic, and often times, correctional staff assigned to the dental clinic are called away to attend to other duties. In addition, for security reasons, ROSP policy prohibits movement of an inmate to the dental clinic during fog. Consequently, the dental clinic is effectively shut down on foggy days. Further, the dental clinic is shut down twice each day for the correctional staff to perform an inmate count. This process can take from 20 to 90 minutes to complete.

According to another List, Gordon was next scheduled to see the dentist on November 19, 2010. However, on that day, the correctional officers were called away to other duties at 12:03 PM and, therefore, only two of the eight scheduled inmates, neither of whom was Gordon, were actually treated that day.

Gordon was next scheduled to see the dentist on March 17, 2011. However, on that day, the correctional officers were not called to the dental clinic until 11:00 AM, and the dentist had to leave at 12:00 PM. Therefore, only two of the eight scheduled ...


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