United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
KEVIN D. MILLER, Plaintiff,
BLUE RIDGE REGIONAL JAIL, et al., Defendants.
K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
D. Miller, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 alleging violations to his Eighth Amendment rights while
housed at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority
(“BRRJA”). In his verified amended complaint and
affidavit, Miller claims that defendants BRRJA, Nurse Teresa
Jones, and Major Raymond Espinoza denied him proper dental
treatment after Miller chipped his two front teeth from
slipping in his cell. Specifically, Miller alleges that
defendants refused to send him to a private dentist outside
of the jail, absent payment from his inmate account, and
offered him limited dental treatment. Am. Compl., Docket No.
10; Miller Verified Statement, Docket No. 2.
pending is defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), on the grounds that Miller fails to
state an Eighth Amendment claim, that Nurse Jones and Major
Espinoza are entitled to qualified immunity, and that the
BRRJA is not an entity amenable to suit under § 1983.
Docket No. 19. In support, defendants submitted the sworn
affidavits of Nurse Jones, Major Espinoza, jail dentist Dr.
James Peery, as well as Miller's medical and dental
records. Docket No. 20. Miller responded, Docket No. 27, and
this matter is ripe for disposition. Defendants presented
materials outside of the pleadings for consideration, and
thus I will treat defendants' motion as one for summary
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). For the reasons that follow, I
will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.
January 31, 2017, Miller filed a written Inmate Request to
see the dentist, stating that he chipped his two front teeth
that day and was experiencing severe pain. Miller was
examined by a nurse that same day, but was not treated by a
dentist. On February 1, 2017, Miller submitted another
written Inmate Request, repeating that he had chipped his
teeth and was in severe pain. On February 10, 2017, Miller
was examined by dentist Dr. Peery, who is not a named
defendant, at the jail. Miller alleges he told Dr. Peery that
he had slipped while in his cell and chipped his teeth on his
bunk. After Dr. Peery examined him, Miller alleges that Dr.
Peery recommended Miller be sent to a private dentist outside
of BRRJA to have his teeth capped and have a root canal due
to the severity of his chipped teeth. Am. Compl. at 3, Docket
No. 10; Miller Verified Statement at 2-3, Docket No. 2.
February 13, 2017, Miller submitted a grievance and spoke
with Major Espinoza in person, repeating his request for
dental treatment and articulating his continued tooth pain.
Am. Compl. at 2-3, Docket No. 10. At this time, Miller
alleges he remained in severe pain and was unable to eat,
drink, or speak without discomfort. Id. Miller
repeated to Major Espinoza that Dr. Peery recommended he be
sent to a private dentist outside the jail, and Miller
requested that the BRRJA pay for the outside treatment.
Miller alleges that Espinoza ignored Miller's pain and
“clearly look[ed] pass [sic] Dentist James Peery's
recommendation to be sent out to have [his] teeth
fixed” because Miller could not pay for dental
treatment outside of the prison. Id. Miller
continued to seek dental treatment for his chipped teeth, and
went to sick call on February 14, 2017. Miller was seen by
Nurse Jones and explained to her that he continued to
experience severe pain. That same day, Miller submitted two
more written Inmate Requests, stating that Nurse Jones failed
to sign him up to be seen by the dentist and explaining that
he needed to see the dentist to obtain an estimate of the
cost of having his teeth capped. Miller Verified Statement at
2-3, Docket No. 2. Miller insisted that having his teeth
capped would be the proper remedy, but Miller alleges Nurse
Jones “disregarded” Dr. Peery's
recommendation and refused because Miller could not pay for
dental treatment outside what was offered at the jail. Am.
Compl. at 3, Docket No. 10. On February 15, 2017, Miller
submitted another written Inmate Request stating that he was
unable to eat or drink due to the continued severe pain. That
day, Miller met with Nurse Jones and requested that he
receive treatment that permanently “fixed” his
teeth rather than temporarily address it, which Miller
alleges that Nurse Jones again “disregarded.”
Miller Verified Statement at 6, Docket No. 2.
defendants' version of events, Nurse Jones, Major
Espinoza, and Dr. Peery submit sworn affidavits to contend
that Miller was provided appropriate treatment for his dental
injuries. Nurse Jones submits in her affidavit that January
31, 2017 was the first day Miller complained of his chipped
teeth. Miller was examined by another nurse that same day,
who administered Miller 400 milligrams of ibuprofen for five
days to treat the pain. Jones Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, Docket
No. 20-1. Nurse Jones asserts that Dr. Peery could not see
Miller on that day because he contracts with BRRJA to visit
the jail twice a month and was not on site on January 31,
2017. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. The next time Dr. Peery
was scheduled to be at the jail was February 10, 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 6- 8.
affidavit, Major Espinoza submits that he replied to
Miller's February 1st Inmate Request the same day to
instruct Miller on filing the correct dental appointment
paperwork. Espinoza Decl. ¶ 2, Docket No. 20-2. Major
Espinoza asserts that Miller submitted a grievance on
February 6, 2017, “indicat[ing] [Miller] was made aware
that the services offered by the Jail dentist only included
fillings and extractions. Miller stated that was unacceptable
and that he wanted his teeth ‘fixed,' seeming to
indicate that he wanted a cosmetic procedure to restore his
teeth[.]” Id. ¶ 4. Major Espinoza asserts
he emailed Nurse Jones on February 7th to inquire about her
knowledge of Miller's chipped teeth. Nurse Jones replied
that Miller was treated the same day he first complained of
his chipped teeth with ibuprofen and that prison staff had
sent Miller the required dental paperwork for Miller to
complete in order to see Dr. Peery when he next visited the
jail. Id. ¶ 5. Major Espinoza asserts that
Miller had not filled out the paperwork by that time, so
Espinoza reiterated this instruction on February 8, 2017 to
assist Miller in making the dentist's appointment.
Id. ¶ 6.
February 10, 2017, Dr. Peery treated Miller and asserts that
Miller relayed symptoms of “thermal sensitivity
consistent with pulpal exposure.” Peery Decl. ¶ 5,
Docket No. 20-3. Dr. Peery diagnosed these symptoms to be the
result of exposed dentin, and therefore would likely be
alleviated with dentinal coverage. Dr. Peery asserts he only
offers certain types of dental services at the jail,
temporary fillings, bondings, and extractions, and he does
not offer any cosmetic services. Based on his diagnosis, Dr.
Peery recommended that either extraction or temporary bonding
would alleviate Miller's symptoms and provide relief for
his pain. Id. ¶¶ 5-6, 9. Miller, however,
did not want his teeth extracted. Dr. Peery asserts that
Miller requested Dr. Peery write an order for Miller to see
an outside dentist for alternative treatment. Id.
¶ 5. Despite the medical order for Miller to see a
private dentist, Major Espinoza asserts that BRRJA policy
requires inmates to pay up front for fees associated with
visits to medical providers outside the jail. Espinoza Decl.
¶ 10, Docket No. 20-2.
February 14, 2017, Miller complained of continued tooth pain
at sick call; Nurse Jones asserts she directed another nurse
to call Dr. Peery to determine proper treatment. Jones Decl.
¶ 13, Docket No. 20-2. As a result of that phone call,
Nurse Jones asserts that Dr. Peery prescribed a ten-day
supply of ibuprofen and stated he would examine Miller the
next time he was scheduled to be at the jail. Id. On
February 15, 2017, Miller wrote in his Inmate Request that he
was unable to eat or drink due to his severe tooth pain, and
Major Espinoza asserts that he responded to Miller the next
day. In his response, Major Espinoza informed Miller that the
jail dentist would determine what course of treatment was
appropriate, and that in the interim, the Jail Medical
Department (“Medical”) would start Miller on a
liquid diet to ensure he could eat and drink. Espinoza Decl.
¶ 15, Docket No. 20-2. Nurse Jones asserts that February
15, 2017, was the first time she was made aware that Miller
had trouble eating or drinking, and she moved Miller to be
housed in Medical so she could monitor Miller's liquid
diet and his pain level. Jones Decl. ¶¶ 12-13,
Docket No. 20-1. Nurse Jones kept Miller in Medical for ten
days, from February 15, 2017 until February 24, 2017, during
which Miller was administered ibuprofen each day for pain per
Dr. Peery's instructions. Id. ¶ 12. Nurse
Jones asserts that Miller “voiced no complaints of pain
during his time in Medical.” Id. ¶ 13.
February 23, 2017,  Dr. Peery examined Miller for a second
time at the jail, and told Miller that he could not do a root
canal or cap Miller's teeth the way Miller requested.
Instead, Dr. Peery insisted that bonding Miller's teeth
would be the appropriate treatment. In his affidavit, Dr.
Peery asserts that Nurse Jones was present for the exam and
that Dr. Peery repeated his observation that Miller's
uncovered dentin was the source of Miller's pain. Peery
Decl. ¶ 8, Docket No. 20-3; Medical Records, Docket No.
20-3, Ex. A. Dr. Peery states he brought the requisite
materials and tools to the jail that day with the intention
of performing the bonding procedure, which Dr. Peery states
would “almost certainly” have alleviated
Miller's pain. Id. ¶ 9. Dr. Peery and Nurse
Jones assert that Miller refused treatment and again insisted
on a repair of his chipped teeth that included cosmetic
the February 23, 2017 appointment did not result in Dr. Peery
repairing Miller's chipped teeth. Nor did Dr. Peery order
any further special diet or pain medications for Miller.
Jones Decl. ¶ 15, Docket No. 20-1. Nurse Jones then
released Miller from Medical as the ten-day observation
period concluded on February 24, 2017, and Miller did not
submit further complaints. Id. ¶¶ 16-17.
Major Espinoza asserts that he considered this matter
resolved when Miller refused treatment for the second time
with Dr. Peery. Espinoza Decl. ¶ 17, Docket No. 20-2.
injuries, Miller seeks “the proper and necessary
treat[ment] in having [his] teeth fixed bye [sic] being sent
out to have them capped.” Miller further seeks an
unspecified amount of monetary damages as ...