United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on the following
motions: a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant J.
Rickman, (Doc. No. 83), and a Motion for Summary Judgment by
Defendants Beddingfield, Lancaster, Lewis, White, and
Yearick, (Doc. No. 89).
Plaintiff Brandon Pickens, a former North Carolina inmate,
filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that
the moving Defendants were deliberately indifferent to
Plaintiff's serious medical needs while Plaintiff was
incarcerated at Piedmont Correctional Institution
(“PCI”) and Mountain View Correctional
Institution (“MVCI”). First, as to Dr. Rickman, a
dentist who provided dental treatment to inmates at MVCI,
Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Rickman was deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff's serious needs for dental care
while Plaintiff was housed at MVCI between August and
December 2012. See (Doc. No. 9 at ¶¶ 8 and
73). As to the remaining Defendants, Plaintiff generally
alleges that, between August 1, 2012 and December 14, 2012
while housed as an inmate at PCI and later at MVCI, mental
health staff did not reasonably and appropriately address his
mental health needs.
filed his original Complaint on December 9, 2015, and he
filed an Amended Complaint on February 18, 2016. See
(Doc. Nos. 1, 9). On October 12, 2017, Defendant Rickman
filed his pending summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 83). On
October 31, 2017, Defendants Beddingfield, Lancaster, Lewis,
White, and Yearick filed their pending summary judgment
motion. (Doc. No. 89). On November 6, 2017, this Court
entered an order, in accordance with Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising
Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the
summary judgment motions and of the manner in which evidence
could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No. 91). Plaintiff has
filed a response to the summary judgment motions.
Plaintiff's Deliberate Indifference Claim against Dr.
Rickman Related to Plaintiff's Dental Care Needs
claim against Dr. Rickman arises out of dental treatment
Plaintiff received, and dental treatment which Plaintiff
contends he should have received, while he was incarcerated
at MVCI between August and December 2012. Dr. Rickman is a
dentist licensed by the State of North Carolina. (Doc. No. 84
at ¶ 3: Rickman Affidavit). He became employed as a
full-time dentist by the Department of Public Safety on
August 13, 2012, and began seeing inmate patients on August
20, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 5). Dr. Rickman was
primarily assigned to work at Avery Mitchell Correctional
Institution. (Id.). No. dentist was permanently
assigned to MVCI, but Dr. Rickman and other providers rotated
through MVCI to see patients there a few days each month.
Rickman was assigned to work at MVCI one day in August 2012;
one day in September 2012; eight days in October 2012; five
days in November 2012; and six days total in December 2012
(only three of which were before Plaintiff was transferred
away from MVCI). (Id. at ¶ 6).
the large number of patients compared to the relatively few
number of dentists available, the MVCI dental clinic
maintained a waiting list of about ninety days for dental
procedures such as routine fillings. (Id. at ¶
7). At the time, DPS policy and record-keeping systems
provided that if an inmate was transferred between facilities
while he was on the dental waitlist at the old facility, he
would have to be reassessed by a dentist at the new facility
and then placed at the bottom of that facility's
waitlist, depending on treatment needs. (Id. at
¶ 10). There was no official system in place at DPS to
integrate or merge the waiting lists of different facilities
for transferring inmates. (Id.).
was transferred to MVCI on or about August 13, 2012, and
remained there for only about four months before being
transferred to Scotland Correctional Institution on December
19, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 4). Before being
transferred to MVCI, Plaintiff received an initial dental
assessment at PCI by a different dentist on or about July 24,
2012. (Id. at ¶ 9). That dentist noted
treatment needs for fillings on teeth #13 and #15, and the
extraction of tooth #17 (a wisdom tooth). (Id.).
Plaintiff was placed on the wait list at PCI for these
procedures, but he was transferred to MVCI before treatment
could be completed. (Id.).
arrival at MVCI, Plaintiff submitted three almost identical
sick call requests regarding his fillings and wisdom tooth-on
August 14, 16 and 25 of 2012. (Id. at ¶ 11). On
August 30, 2012, another dentist extracted tooth #17.
(Id. at ¶ 12). That same day, Plaintiff
submitted a sick call request requesting a check-up and
dental cleaning, and was placed on the prophylaxis (cleaning)
waitlist on September 6, 2012. (Id.).
missed his October 10, 2012, prophylaxis appointment, but was
seen by Dr. Rickman for the first time on October 12, 2012,
for a cleaning. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 14).
Plaintiff requested a full mouth series of x-rays and a
dental examination and received the same from Dr. Rickman on
October 15, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 14). On that date,
Dr. Rickman noted the need for fillings on teeth #13 and #15
and placed Plaintiff on the facility's waitlist for these
procedures. (Id.). Tooth #15 was treatment planned
for a traditional amalgam filling. Tooth #13 was treatment
planned for an Intermediate Restorative Material
(“IRM”) filling due to extensive decay and the
poor prognosis of that tooth. (Id.). Although tooth
#13 had a poor, if not hopeless, prognosis, on October 15,
2012, Dr. Rickman exercised his clinical judgment and decided
to attempt to save the tooth with a temporary IRM filling.
(Id.). If, after placing the IRM filling, the tooth
“settled down, ” and appeared to be salvageable,
Dr. Rickman would have proceeded at a later date with a
traditional filling. (Id.). However, Dr. Rickman
believed that, more likely than not, tooth #13 would
eventually require extraction. (Id.).
the next two months, before he was transferred from MVCI on
December 19, 2012, Plaintiff submitted multiple sick call
requests regarding his fillings. (Id. at ¶ 15).
Each time, the dental hygienist reminded Plaintiff that he
was already on the waitlist, which at all times was at least
ninety days long. (Id.). While at MVCI, Plaintiff di
not did declare a dental emergency (which all inmates can do
at any time) regarding his fillings. (Id. at ¶
16). Indeed, Plaintiff's dental needs regarding teeth #13
and #15 were routine and did not require immediate or urgent
intervention. (Id. at ¶ 14).
Rickman asserts in his affidavit that he provided Plaintiff
with appropriate and timely dental care and treatment and was
in no way indifferent to his dental needs. (Id. at
¶ 17). Dr. Rickman saw Plaintiff promptly, took a full
mouth series of dental x-rays, completed a comprehensive
examination, diagnosed his treatment needs, and placed
Plaintiff on the facility's waitlist for his fillings.
(Id.). In doing so, Dr. Rickman exercised his
clinical judgment in triaging Plaintiff and his treatment
needs. (Id.). Due to the number of inmates who had
dental needs at MVCI, in conjunction with the few number of
days that Dr. Rickman was actually assigned to MVCI to
provide dental treatment, Plaintiff's fillings were
unable to be scheduled for completion before Plaintiff was
transferred away from MVCI on December 19, 2012.
tooth #15 was restored with a simple filling on or about
March 13, 2013, (as Dr. Rickman planned to do himself had
Plaintiff remained at MVCI) and remains fully functional.
(Id. at ¶ 18). Tooth #13, which Dr. Rickman
felt had a poor prognosis and might require extraction, was
in fact extracted on or about February 14, 2014.
Larry Ray, a general dentist licensed by the State of North
Carolina, has reviewed and evaluated the care provided to
Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 85 at ¶ 3: Ray Aff.). Dr. Ray
asserts that, in his professional expert opinion, Dr.
Rickman's treatment of Plaintiff was appropriate and that
he was not indifferent to Plaintiff's dental needs.
(Id. at ¶ 8). Dr. Ray opines that
Plaintiff's teeth #13 and #15 were not in need of
immediate fillings and did not constitute a serious dental
need. (Id.). Dr. Ray asserts that it was therefore
entirely appropriate for Plaintiff to be placed on the dental
waiting list at MVCI for those fillings. (Id.).
Furthermore, it is Dr. Ray's opinion that Plaintiff has
suffered no harm that is attributable to any action or
inaction of Dr. Rickman. (Id.). Dr. Ray notes that
Tooth #15 was filled on March 13, 2013, and Plaintiff was not
harmed by any delay. (Id. at ¶ 7). The
prognosis for tooth #13 was already poor, if not hopeless,
when Dr. Rickman first saw Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶
6). According to Dr. Ray, even if Dr. Rickman had been able
to perform the planned IRM filling on #13, more likely than
not Plaintiff would have lost the tooth anyway, and the tooth
was, in fact, extracted on February 14, 2014. (Id.).
Finally, Dr. Ray opines that Dr. Rickman's inability to
place fillings before Plaintiff was transferred from MVCI did
not harm Plaintiff or affect his dental outcome.
(Id. at ¶ 8).
Plaintiff's Deliberate Indifference Claim against
Defendants Lewis, Beddingfield, White, Lancaster, and Yearick
Related to Plaintiff's Mental Health Care Needs
the remaining Defendants, Plaintiff has brought a claim
against them for deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs, based on his allegation that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, on October 17, 2012, he
“requested to be placed back on [his] mental health
medication and be transferred to another prison
facility.” (Doc. No. 9 at ¶ 31). The following
day, Plaintiff submitted a request to see a mental health
care provider and, on October 19, 2012, was evaluated.
(Id. at ¶ 33). With respect to the moving
Defendants, Plaintiff states that he wrote a letter to
“the Director of Prisons” raising “problems
concerning [his] mental health care and [Defendant]
Yearick's failure to accommodate [his] mental health
needs.” (Id. at ¶ 38). Plaintiff alleges
that, a short time later, he met with Defendant White while
in segregation, at which point Defendant White allegedly told
him that “she was going to help [him] get back on [his]
mental health medications, ” among other things.
(Id. at ¶ 43).
next contact with Defendant White was by letter when she
responded in writing to his request for permission to
correspond with his brothers, who were also incarcerated
within NCDPS facilities. (Id. at ¶¶
48-49). In her response, Defendant White advised Plaintiff to
“submit a request to [his] case manager to begin the
approval process . . . .” (Id. at ¶ 49).
As for Defendant Lewis, Plaintiff claims that Dr. John S.
Carbone responded to a letter Plaintiff had written Defendant
Lewis on November 7, 2012, complaining about his mental
health care. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, copies
of Dr. Carbone's response were sent to Defendant Lewis
and Defendant Yearick, but Defendant Yearick never met with
Plaintiff to address his concerns. (Id.). On
November 28, 2012, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant
Beddingfield in response to correspondence Plaintiff had sent
to Defendant Lancaster. (Id. at ¶ 50).
According to Plaintiff, Defendant Beddingfield advised him
that his letter had been “forwarded to [Defendant]
White for review and disposition.” (Id.).
Plaintiff claims that, on December 4, 2012, he received a
written response from Defendant White to a letter Plaintiff
had written to Defendant Lewis. (Id. at ¶ 54).
According to Plaintiff, Defendant White's response
“acknowledged that she ha[d] received numerous letters
and requests forms” and “admitted that she was
aware of [Plaintiff's] concerns relating to . . . proper
mental health care and a transfer, ” but that no
further action was taken. (Id.). Then, on December
18, 2012, Plaintiff received a written response from
Defendant White to a letter he had addressed to Defendant
Lewis “about numerous concerns regarding conditions
[to] which [he] was subjected at MCVI. The concerns which I
addressed included grievance problems, confiscated personal
property, spoiled food, kitchen sanitation, and staff racial
prejudice.” (Id. at ¶ 61). Plaintiff
complains that Defendant White took no further action.
(Id.). Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants
Lewis, Beddingfield, White, or Lancaster provided any mental
health, psychiatric, or psychological care to him or that
they directly oversaw or supervised any such care rendered by
support of their motion, Defendants have submitted their own
affidavits, as well as affidavits from various non-parties.
See (Doc. No. 90-1: Aff. of Katie Smith, Defs. Ex.
A; Doc. No. 90-2: Aff. of Lori Hall, Defs. Ex. B; Doc. No.
90-3: Aff. of Ken Yearick, Defs. Ex. C; Doc. No. 90-4: Aff.
of Anna Jamieson, Defs. Ex. D). Defendant Yearick served as a
Psychological Programs Manager for NCDPS from 2007 until 2015
and, so, provided, among other things, clinical oversight to
the mental health staff at MCVI, ensured compliance with