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Young v. Ferrell

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

March 30, 2018

LARRY EARL YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
RONALD FERRELL, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Jason B. Libby United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Larry Earl Young is a Texas inmate appearing pro se and in forma pauperis. In this prisoner civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff claims that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in connection with the failure to replace his broken dentures. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (D.E. 12). For the reasons stated herein, it is respectfully recommended that the Court GRANT Defendants' motion.

         I. JURISDICTION

         The Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for case management and making recommendations on dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a prisoner in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Criminal Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID). The facts giving rise to Plaintiff's claims in this case occurred in connection with Plaintiff's current assignment to the Garza East Unit (GEU) in Beeville, Texas.

         Plaintiff named the following prison officials as defendants in his original complaint: (1) Dr. Ronald Ferrell, a dentist; and (2) Rudy A. Martisek, Practice Manager. Plaintiff claims that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by failing either to investigate or properly advise the Dental Utilization Quality Review Committee (Committee) about the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's broken dentures. After a Spears[1] hearing was conducted on November 16, 2017, the undersigned ordered service of Plaintiff's complaint on Dr. Ferrell and Mr. Martisek (collectively referred to hereinafter as “Defendants”). (D.E. 9).

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The following representations relevant to Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims were made either in Plaintiff's original complaint (D.E. 1) or at the Spears hearing: Plaintiff first came into TDCJ custody in 1993 pursuant to a drug conviction where he was sentenced to twenty-five years' imprisonment. Around 1994 or 1995, Plaintiff had nine or ten upper teeth pulled. He then had his missing teeth replaced in 1995 with partial dentures prepared by the TDCJ. Plaintiff also has two bottom teeth missing but has not replaced them with any dentures. Plaintiff testified that, while he has no other health problems, he eats slowly and cannot chew on certain foods like apples or corn on the cob.

         Plaintiff was first released on parole sometime in 1998. Plaintiff spent the next several years either on parole or in prison. In September 2013, Plaintiff returned to TDCJ custody on a parole violation and was sent to the Havens Unit in Brownwood, Texas, to participate in a six-month drug program. In March 2014, while Plaintiff was confined at the Havens Unit, a prison official named Officer Sikes stepped on and broke Plaintiff's dentures while performing night rounds. Prison officials from the Havens Unit's medical/dental unit, however, did not replace the dentures since Plaintiff was two weeks from being released. Plaintiff was given the broken pieces to take home.

         Plaintiff returned into TDCJ custody on August 5, 2016 due to a parole violation and is currently housed in the GEU. Plaintiff proceeded to advise Dr. Ferrell what had happened with his dentures. Dr. Ferrell did not indicate whether Plaintiff needed dentures and referred Plaintiff's case to the Dental Quality Review Committee (Committee). Dr. Ferrell, however, failed to inform the Committee exactly how his dentures were broken. Plaintiff could not remember if Dr. Ferrell made any recommendations to the Committee about whether Plaintiff needed dentures. Mr. Martisek advised Plaintiff that he would look into Plaintiff's situation and present all relevant documents to the Committee on Plaintiff's behalf. Mr. Martisek, however, did not fulfill his promise, and the Committee ultimately denied Plaintiff's request for replacement dentures.

         On July 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Step 1 grievance seeking to obtain replacement dentures. (D.E. 1-1, pp. 1-2). Mr. Martisek rejected the grievance, finding that: (1) Dr. Ferrell had assisted with Plaintiff's request for replacement dentures; (2) the Committee had denied the request and instead recommended a mechanically-blended diet; (3) Plaintiff had refused the option for a mechanically-blended diet; and (4) the Committee had instructed Plaintiff to resubmit his request for denture fabrication in six months. (D.E. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff subsequently filed a Step 2 grievance on September 21, 2017, which was denied for essentially the same reasons. (D.E. 1-1, pp. 3-4).

         After the Committee denied Plaintiff's request for replacement dentures, Dr. Ferrell offered to help Plaintiff with his mechanically-blended diet. Plaintiff acknowledged at the Spears hearing, however, that he had refused to be placed on such a diet. Plaintiff is currently on a regular meal plan. He experiences difficulty eating his food in a timely manner and cannot chew his meals properly. He further states that his weight fluctuates up and down.

         B. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Subsequent Telephone Conferences

         On January 5, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Ruled of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (D.E. 12). Plaintiff subsequently filed ...


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