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Sharpe v. South Carolina Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

September 25, 2014

MARTIN JAMES SHARPE, #200480, a/k/a JAMES MARTIN SHARPE, a/k/a JAMES SHARPE Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, SCDC; DR. WILLIAM AKERMAN, SCDC Dental Director; DWIGHT D. McMILLAN, Broad River CI; DR. UBAH, Dentist, Lee CI; McCLARY, Dental Assistant, Lee CI; GREGG, Dental Assistant, Broad River CI, Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court grant the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"), Dr. William Y. Akerman, Jr. ("Dr. Akerman"), Dr. Joseph C. Ubah ("Dr. Ubah"), Deborah L. McClary ("McClary"), and Kim M. Gregg ("Gregg") (collectively, the "SCDC defendants") and deny defendant Dr. Dwight D. McMillan's ("Dr. McMillan") motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Martin James Sharpe ("Sharpe") and Dr. McMillan each filed written objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R in part and rejects the R&R in part and grants summary judgment as to all defendants.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Sharpe is an inmate currently housed at the Lee Correctional Institution ("LCI") within SCDC. SCDC Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1. Prior to his transfer to LCI, Sharpe was housed at the Broad River Correctional Institution ("BRCI"). Id . Dr. Akerman is the director of dental services for SCDC. Id . Dr. Ubah is a dentist employed by SCDC and McClary and Gregg are dental assistants employed by SCDC. Id . Dr. McMillan is a contract dentist with SCDC who provided dental care to Sharpe at BRCI. Id . Sharpe alleges that beginning in the end of 2011, defendants denied him dental treatment despite numerous requests for dental appointments and frequent complaints of severe pain. Am. Compl. 1. Specifically, Sharpe asserts that defendants were deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs involving tooth #5, tooth #7, tooth #13, and tooth #16 in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Am. Compl. 2.

According to Sharpe's SCDC dental records, Sharpe was seen by a dentist at BRCI and LCI seventeen times between March 21, 2008 and July 11, 2013.[2] Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 2-6. On May 26, 2011, Sharpe visited Dr. McMillan and received a filling in tooth #7. Id. at 4. Upon Sharpe's request for another filling, Dr. McMillan filled tooth #16 on January 5, 2012. Id . Dr. McMillan wrote "possible extraction" under the plan portion of Sharpe's January 5 dental record. Id . On February 28, 2012, Dr. McMillan filled tooth #12 and "[i]nformed [Sharpe] of need of O.S. [oral surgeon] referral for removal of #16." Id . Sharpe alleges that on that day, Dr. McMillan administered local anesthesia to extract tooth #16, but after x-raying the tooth, determined that the extraction would have to be performed by an oral surgeon due to root curvature of the tooth. Am. Compl. 1.

On August 9, 2012, Sharpe complained that tooth #13 was sensitive to cold during a dental appointment with Dr. Ubah. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 4. Sharpe's dental records indicate that Dr. Ubah diagnosed Sharpe with "irreversible pulpitis" and recommended removal of tooth #13 but that Sharpe signed a refusal form denying the suggested treatment. Id . Sharpe's October 4, 2012 dental visit was cancelled for security reasons. Id . Since his previous appointment was cancelled, Sharpe filed a staff member request on October 22, 2012 seeking dental treatment of multiple cavities. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 8. In response, the staff member responded that Sharpe would be notified of the next available appointment. Id . Sharpe's dental records indicate that Sharpe was not escorted to his November 15, 2012 appointment. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 4.

During a sick call visit with medical staff on November 28, 2012, Sharpe complained of a broken filling in tooth #7. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 21. The following day, Dr. Ubah provided a temporary filling in tooth #7 during a dental appointment. Id. at 5. Because of excessive bleeding, Dr. Ubah could not restore tooth #7 with a composite at that time. Id . The medical records do not indicate that Sharpe complained of any pain in tooth #5 or tooth #16 during his August 9 or November 29 appointments with Dr. Ubah or the November 28 sick call visit with medical staff. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 5.

On December 11, 2012, Sharpe requested a dental appointment, citing pain in tooth #5 and tooth #16. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 7. A staff member responded to his request on December 13 and stated that there was a waiting list, but that Sharpe would be notified of the first available appointment. Id . Sharpe's February 21, 2013 dental appointment was rescheduled due to a roll call, and his March 7, 2013 appointment was rescheduled due to security. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 5.

On March 14, 2013, Sharpe visited Dr. Ubah and stated that tooth #16 was throbbing. Id . Dr. Ubah prescribed antibiotics and referred Sharpe to an oral surgeon for extraction of tooth #16. Id . Dr. Ubah offered Sharpe pain medication, but Sharpe declined. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 16. Dr. Akerman approved Dr. Ubah's referral to the oral surgeon the following day. Akerman Aff. 4. On March 26, 2013, Sharpe filed a request for dental assistance seeking removal of tooth #16. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 6. A staff member responded on April 1, stating that Sharpe was on the waiting list to see an oral surgeon. Id.

While awaiting his appointment with the oral surgeon, Sharpe complained of bad facial pain during a sick call visit on April 4, 2013. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 16. Sharpe stated that dental failed to do anything about his pain or facial swelling apart from prescribing antibiotics. Id . During that encounter, the nurse noted that Sharpe had no facial edema and that a tooth on the upper left side was dark with no edema to his gums or the left side of his face. Id . The nurse further noted that Sharpe was awaiting surgical approval and that he had a pending dental appointment. Id . The medical records also indicate that the doctors permitted Sharpe to take Tylenol until his appointment the following week. Id . On April 15, 2013, the mental health clinic reported that during a visit, Sharpe stated that he was supposed to have a wisdom tooth pulled and that the tooth had been hurting him. Id . Nevertheless, the nurse did not note any signs of a serious medical need during that visit. Id . An oral surgeon extracted tooth #16 on April 16, 2013. Id . On April 17, 2013, Sharpe returned from the oral surgeon and was placed on antibiotics and ibuprofen. Id .; Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 5.

After the oral surgeon extracted tooth #16, Sharpe requested dental assistance for tooth #5 on April 30, 2013. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 5. A staff member responded that Sharpe was on the waiting list for a scheduled restoration of his broken filling on tooth #7. Id . Sharpe's June 6 dental appointment was rescheduled due to security. Def.'s Objections Ex. 4, at 5. On July 11, 2013 Sharpe returned to the dentist for a scheduled restoration of tooth #7. Id.

Sharpe filed the present action on June 7, 2013. He filed an amended complaint on October 16, 2013 asserting a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 11, 2013, the SCDC defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On January 10, 2014, Dr. McMillan filed a motion for summary judgment. Sharpe responded to the SCDC defendants' motion for summary judgment on January 15, 2014 and to Dr. McMillan's motion for summary judgment on May 9, 2014. The magistrate judge issued the R&R on July 30, 2014. Dr. McMillan filed objections to the R&R on August 14, 2014, and Sharpe filed objections to the R&R on August 15, 2014. Sharpe responded to Dr. McMillan's objections on August 27, 2014. This matter is now ripe for the court's review.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's report to which specific, written objections are made, and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations contained in that report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The magistrate judge's recommendation does not carry presumptive weight, and it is the responsibility of this court to make a final determination. Mathews v. Weber , 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). A party's failure to ...


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