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Watson v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

March 24, 2016

Audrel Jack Watson, Plaintiff,
Harold Clarke, et al., Defendants.


Gerald Bruce Lee United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court upon defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Audrel Jack Watson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that several defendants were deliberately indifference to his serious medical needs. Except for his claims against defendant Dr. Greggory Bowles, this Court dismissed plaintiffs claims against all other named defendants, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed this Court's decision. See Dkt. Nos. 23, 60. The only remaining defendant in this case. Dr. Greggory Bowles, has now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, as well as a memorandum of law and several supporting exhibits. Dkt. Nos. 47, 48. Plaintiff was given the Notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and the opportunity to file responsive materials pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison. 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), and he has filed a response. Accordingly, the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted. Plaintiffs pending motions must be denied, as moot.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiffs allegations arise out of defendant's alleged failure to treat his severe toothache. Plaintiff has been confined at Lawrencevilie Correctional Center ("Lawrenceville") since July 2012. Jones Aff. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. C], H 5. Defendant Dr. Greggory Bowles was the Chief Dentist at Lawrenceville at all times relevant to this lawsuit. Bowles Aff. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. A], ¶¶ 1, 3.

On May 3, 2013, plaintiff submitted a request for medical care complaining that his left molar was "very very sensitive to tap water." Compl. [Dkt. No. 1], Ex. 1. Plaintiff submitted an additional request for dental care on May 6, 2013, at which time he complained of more severe pain. Compl. ¶13. Plaintiff allegedly did not receive a response to this request. Id.

In the early morning, at 12:29 a.m., on May 13, 2013, plaintiff filled out an emergency grievance, explaining that his face was swollen and that he was in "excruciating pain." Id. ¶ 16. Dr. Bowles was not present at Lawrenceville at this time. Bowles Aff. ¶ 12. A correctional officer took the emergency grievance to the medical wing. There, the nurse on duty told the correctional officer that Lawrenceville "does not treat for emergency pain." Compl. ¶ 17. Later that same morning, another correctional officer personally requested medical staff to examine plaintiff. The nurse on duty at that time told the officer that "they may or may not work [plaintiff] in." Id. ¶19. Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Bowles on May 14, 2013, the next day - less than 36 hours after his initial complaint of facial swelling and toothache - allegedly during a previously-scheduled appointment "on an unrelated issue." Id. ¶23; Bowles Aff. ¶¶ 8, 12.

During Dr. Bowies' examination of plaintiff on May 14, 2013, plaintiff complained that he had a toothache and that he had been experiencing cold sensitivity in tooth No. 19. Bowles Aff. ¶ 8; Hightower Aff. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. D], ¶ 11; Dental Rec. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. E], at 3. Dr. Bowles observed advanced periodontal disease at tooth Nos. 14 and 15, and he determined that these two teeth were in need of treatment. Id. He prescribed Doxcycline 100 mg, an oral antibiotic, twice a day for 15 days and 1000 mg of Tylenol three times a day for 21 days. Id; Compl. ¶ 24. Plaintiff had already been prescribed another pain medication. Naproxen 500 mg, to be used concomitantly. Pharmacy Rec. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. F], at 8.

Dr. Bowles discussed plaintiffs medications with him, and plaintiff did not complain at any time during these conversations about the medications he received. Bowles Aff. ¶ 9. Dr. Bowles did not prescribe advanced pain medications containing narcotics because such medications are often abused and misused in the correctional setting; furthermore, Dr. Bowles did not believe a narcotic was medically necessary to manage plaintiff's pain. Id.

Plaintiff states that he suffered from "excruciating pain" for five more days, and that the Tylenol "showed no noticeable relief in [his] pain." Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Bowles showed deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He specifically faults the defendant for failing to properly triage his pain by examining him as soon as possible, rather than waiting until May 14, 2013. See, e.g., Resp. to Court's Order/Am. Compl. [Dkt. No. 15], at 19-20, 22-24.

A. Plaintif's Grievance History

Virginia Department of Corrections Operation Procedure 866.1 ("OP 866.1") provides the inmate grievance procedures at Lawrenceville. Jones Aff. [Dkt. No. 48, Ex. C], ¶ 7. Plaintiff was oriented to these procedures on or about July 27, 2012. Id. Plaintiff's grievance records are attached to Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 48, Ex. I.

Beginning May 20, 2013, plaintiff began filing several Informal Complaints related to his dental care, including Informal Complaint Numbers ("INF Nos.") 1521, 1522, and 1523 on May 20, 2015; INF Nos. 1595, 1596, and 1597 on May 29, 2013; INF No. 1748 on June 14, 2013; INF Nos. 1800 and 1801 on June 19, 2013; and INF Nos. 1814, 1815, and 1816 on June 20, 2013.[1] Id. Plaintiff then filed Regular Grievances associated with INF Nos. 1521, 1522, 1595, 1596, 1748, 1800, and 1801. With the exception of one, [2] all of plaintiffs Regular Grievances were determined to be unfounded. Plaintiff appealed only INF. No. 1521, and he obtained a Level II Response to INF No. 1521 on August 18, 2013. Id. His grievance was determined to be unfounded. Id.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett.477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To meet that burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to point out the specific facts that create disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc..477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986): Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp..475 U.S. 574. 587 f 1986V In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of that party. United States v. Diebold. Inc..369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Those facts which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts which are material. "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson. 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine when, "the evidence... create[s] [a] fair doubt; ...

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