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Stone v. Lewis

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

January 26, 2015

DUNCAN STONE, Plaintiff,
SHARON LEWIS, Medical Director, Georgia Department of Corrections, Defendant.


BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at Wheeler Correctional Facility ("Wheeler") in Alamo, Georgia, filed this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis . Defendant Sharon Lewis moves for summary judgment. (Doc. no. 58.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS that the motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of Defendant Lewis, and that this civil action be CLOSED.


By Order dated March 26, 2013, United States District Judge Dudley H. Bowen, Jr., dismissed Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim based on lack of treatment of an alleged shoulder condition, as well as several other claims not related to Plaintiff's medical treatment. (Doc. no. 19.) The Court allowed Plaintiff to proceed with the claim presently at issue for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, which alleges a significant delay in Plaintiff receiving dentures. Plaintiff asserts this claim against Defendant Pat Clark, Wheeler Medical Director, Dr. Mark Peacock, a dentist at Wheeler, and Sharon Lewis, Georgia Department of Corrections ("GDC") Medical Director. (Doc. no. 16.)

Defendant Lewis moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, arguing Plaintiff had improperly attempted to hold her liable on theories of vicarious liability or respondeat superior and that she was entitled to the protections of qualified immunity. (Doc. no. 30.) Judge Bowen denied the motion, explaining, in part, that "[d]iscovery is needed to determine Defendant's actual role, if any, in events that relate to Plaintiff's claim." (Doc. no. 46, p. 3.) Judge Bowen granted summary judgment to Defendants Clark and Peacock based on Plaintiff's failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. (Doc. nos. 52-55.) Indeed, while Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning the delay in receiving dentures while at Georgia State Prison, he never filed a grievance concerning this issue upon his transfer to Wheeler, where Defendants Clark and Peacock worked. (Doc. no. 52, p. 8; doc. no. 54.)


Now that the case is at the summary judgment stage, the evidentiary record and undisputed facts provide a more detailed picture of events relating to Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Lewis. Before describing the summary judgment record, it is important to note that where Plaintiff has failed to properly dispute a material fact in Defendant Lewis's statement, (doc. no. 58-1), the Court has deemed that fact undisputed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) and Williams v. Slack, 438 F.Appx. 848, 849 (11th Cir. 2011).

Between May 12, 2010, and May 22, 2011, while incarcerated at Coastal State Prison, a dentist pulled out nine of Plaintiff's teeth because of class three periodontal disease, including all of his upper teeth and all but six bottom teeth. (Doc. no. 58-5, Pl.'s Dep., p. 12, ll. 18-25; doc. no. 58-6, Kramer Aff. ¶ 8.) The dentist who pulled the teeth told Plaintiff he would have dentures in four months. (Pl.'s Dep., p. 18, ll. 11-13.) Plaintiff transferred to Georgia State Prison on June 24, 2011, and prison officials put him on the denture waiting list on August 10, 2011. (Doc. no. 58-3, p. 3; Kramer Aff. ¶ 10.) While at Georgia State Prison, Plaintiff had problems with bleeding, swelling, facial sores, and stomach problems including heartburn and nausea, but he only reported the stomach problems to non-dental medical staff. (Pl.'s Dep., pp. 16, ll. 18-25 to p. 17, ll. 1-12.) Plaintiff never discussed any difficulty posed by not having dentures with non-dental medical providers. (Id.) During his one visit with the dentist at Georgia State Prison, when he complained about his bleeding gums, the dentist told Plaintiff he was on the waiting list for dentures. (Id. at 18, ll. 1-25.)

Plaintiff transferred to Wheeler on March 15, 2012, and prison officials put him on the denture waiting list on April 17, 2012. (Doc. no. 58-3, p. 3; Kramer Aff. ¶ 11.) The dentist at Wheeler told Plaintiff he would have to wait three years for his dentures because the state was not providing money for teeth. (Doc. no. 14, pp. 8-9.) Specifically, Plaintiff maintains the official response from the Warden regarding the request for dentures explained "the State does only two sets of dentures per month" at Wheeler. (Id. at 10.) GDC Standard Operating Procedure ("SOP") VH66-0001, § VI(C)(3)(g) states that GDC inmates who "are completely edentulous in one or both arches and who do not have serviceable dental appliances will have the opportunity to acquire complete dentures within the capability of Dental Services." (Doc. no. 58-7, SOP VH66-0001.) Plaintiff received dentures on October 15, 2013, more than two years after the dentist at Coastal State Prison completed the removal of nine teeth and more than a year after Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit. (Pl.'s Dep., p. 19, ll. 9-12.)

Defendant Lewis is the medical director for GDC. (Doc. no. 58-4, Lewis Aff. ¶ 4.) She plays no role in drafting, approving, or implementing any GDC SOP governing dental care for inmates incarcerated by GDC, and she does not oversee dental services provided within GDC or review inmate grievances related to dental care or policies, including policies related to dentures. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) GDC has a dental director who oversees dental services. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant Lewis does not know Plaintiff, has not directly provided any medical or dental care to Plaintiff, and has not reviewed any grievance by Plaintiff related to dental care, dental treatment, or dentures. (Lewis Aff. ¶ 8, 9; Pl.'s Dep., p. 20, ll. 23-25.) Cynthia Distlear, GDC Dental Director in 2013, not Defendant Lewis, denied Plaintiff's grievance appeal regarding his placement on the waiting list for dentures. (Pl.'s Dep., Ex. 1.)

Plaintiff and Defendant have never met. (Pl.'s Dep., p. 20, ll. 21-22.) Plaintiff sued Defendant Lewis because she is the medical director and "[s]omebody somewhere has got to be in charge." (Id. at ll. 15-20.) Plaintiff's only basis of knowledge for his contention that Defendant Lewis is involved in the formulation of GDC policy regarding dental care is that he read somewhere her job is to look over the medical policies and "make sure the policies for inmates is whatever." (Id. at 21, ll. 4-14.)


A. Summary Judgment Standard.

Summary judgment is appropriate only if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When seeking summary judgment, the movant must show, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact to be decided at a trial. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). Only disputes about material facts are important. "The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is ...

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