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Ford v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division

May 3, 2017




         Wesley Ford is an inmate at the federal prison facility in Forrest City, Arkansas. He commenced this action against the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et. seq. He alleges that the prison negligently failed to provide adequate dental care, to provide hearing aids, to treat his back pain, to control his eczema, and to treat his allergies. Document #2. The United States has moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the following reasons, the government's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record. Pedersen v. Bio-Med. Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir. 2015). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         Ford's medical treatment history is extensive and varied, but this case primarily concerns treatment he received for dental, back, and hearing issues while at a federal prison in Forrest City, Arkansas. He has been an inmate at Forrest City since February of 2014. Document #2 at ¶ 6. Before arriving at Forrest City, he was housed in a federal transfer center in Oklahoma City. Id. While there, he was seen by a registered dental hygienist in January 2014. Document #54-2 at 4. Ford had filled out a health intake assessment, noting that he had pain in his teeth and mouth and suffered from eczema. Id. at 15. He told the hygienist that his teeth were throbbing and assessed the pain as a “7” on the pain scale. Id. at 4. The hygienist determined that the teeth numbered 17-19 had “gross decay to [the] gumline.” Id. She gave him oral hygiene instructions and noted that she would consult a dentist about antibiotic and pain therapy. Id. at 5. The same day a dentist prescribed a Penicillin and Ibuprofen ten-day regimen because Ford had “caries extending into pulp.” Id. at 6. A dentist saw Ford later in January 2014, and extracted teeth 17-19. Id. at 12. The dentist prescribed Ford an oral rinse as well as a nutritional supplement. Id. at 13.

         Upon transfer, Ford was evaluated at Forrest City. He was seen by a registered nurse on February 3, 2014. Id. at 20. The nurse recorded that Ford had no pain or swelling in his teeth or mouth, was under no current dental treatment, but complained of needing bottom teeth pulled. Id. She also recorded “eczema” under the “Observations” section. Id. at 21. The nurse listed “Dental Complaint” and “Dentures” among potential items for follow-up. Id. At the time, Ford had a top plate of dentures. Id. Two days later, Ford was seen by a certified physicians assistant. Id. at 26.

         She too noted that Ford had no pain or swelling in his teeth or mouth and was under no current dental treatment. Id. at 28. Ford made an unspecified dental complaint and she referred him to dental sick call the next morning. Id. Despite Ford missing many teeth and having a top plate of dentures, the physicians assistant made the following notations: Gums Normal: Yes; Teeth Poor Dentition: No; Teeth Count: Mostly Present; Dentures: No. Id. at 33. She listed “Dental Complaint” and “Dentures” among potential items for follow-up. Id. at 36. In the “Observations” section, she wrote that Ford had a history of eczema. Id. at 29. She referred Ford to the commissary for over-the-counter treatments for his eczema and instructed him that he could place a sick call if he did not experience relief. Id. at 37.

         On February 18, 2014, a doctor made an administrative note on Ford's medical file asking why he had been prescribed a nutritional supplement while at the transfer facility and stating that he “need[ed] an evaluation for this.” Id. at 46. Ford saw a dental hygienist on February 25, 2014. Id. at 49. The hygienist listed “Edentulism, partial, unspecified” and “Dental caries extending into pulp” as current health problems, but she listed “Dermatitis/eczema” as a resolved health problem. Id. She noted that Ford had 21 missing teeth and 11 decayed teeth. Id. at 53.

         On April 24, 2014, Ford filled out two inmate request forms-one complaining of his hearing loss, which the prison staff interpreted as Ford requesting a hearing exam, and the other complaining of dental pain and requesting that all of his teeth be removed so that he can get dentures. Id. at 73-74. Ford expressed concern that his dental pain was caused by an infection. Id. at 74. The prison staff added Ford to the “treatment list” for his dental issues. Id. Ford's medical records reflect that on May 7, 2014, a nurse scheduled a hearing test for Ford on May 9, 2014. Id. at 76. This hearing test was rescheduled for March 2, 2015, for unknown reasons. Document #54 at ¶ 18. On February 13, 2015, Ford again filled out an inmate request form. Document #54-2 at 90. In it he complained of eczema, lower back pain due to nerve damage, and hearing issues. Id. He expressed dismay that he had not yet received treatment for these issues. Id. The prison staff responded that he was on the call-out to see a nurse for his eczema and that a nurse will write a consult for an audiology exam and appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Id. After Ford had an audiometric examination indicating profound hearing loss, a nurse practitioner ordered a consultation with an otolaryngologist. Id. at 91. The nurse practitioner described the consultation as medically necessary but non-emergent. Id. The request was approved on March 3, 2015, by Dr. Martin Tindel, the Institution Clinical Director at Forrest City. Id. at 99.

         On March 10, 2015, a nurse practitioner met with Ford regarding his three complaints in the February 2015 inmate request form. The nurse practitioner noted that Ford reported that his back pain was due to nerve damage and underdeveloped nerves. Id. at 103. Ford assessed his back pain as a “5.” Id. The nurse practitioner prescribed Tylenol for his lower back pain. Id. at 106. On April 10, 2015, a doctor also prescribed Ford an anti-inflammatory medication. Id. at 108. Ford was seen by a doctor on April 14, 2015, for his lower back pain, complaining that his condition was unimproved. Id. at 111. Ford presented to the chronic care clinic on June 9, 2015, with complaints of back pain. Id. at 113. A doctor ordered blood tests and an x-ray of his lumbar spine, and scheduled a follow-up for November 27, 2015, to go over the blood work and x-ray. Id. at 113-17. At the same time Ford presented to the chronic care clinic for back pain, his medical file listed “Dental caries extending into pulp” and “Edentulism, partial, unspecified” as “current” health problems. Id. at 123.

         On July 29, 2015, Ford was seen by a dental hygienist and a dentist. The dental hygienist noted that Ford had bleeding gums, severely decayed teeth, and loose teeth. Id. at 145, 147. The dentist created a care plan that called for the rest of Ford's teeth to be extracted and full dentures. Id. at 148, 152. The plan listed tooths 21-29 and 31-32 for extraction. Id. at 148. Ford's records reflect that he did not report any pain to the hygienist or dentist. Id. at 147.

         On August, 17, 2015, a radiologist read Ford's x-ray of his lumbar spine and simply concluded that it was negative. Id. at 153. On November 24, 2015, Ford visited an otolaryngologist in Memphis, Tennessee. Id. at 155. The otolaryngologist determined that a follow-up visit was needed so that Ford could undergo additional tests. Id. at 157. The tests were scheduled for February 25, 2016. Id. at 162. Ford had the tests on February 2, 2016, and it was determined that he needed hearing aids. Id. at 167.

         On February 9, 2016, Ford went to the prison's dental services, complaining of a broken tooth that was causing his face to swell. Id. at 169. The dentist determined that the pain was caused by an infected retained residual root, which was causing facial and vestibular swelling. Id. The tooth was not restorable and was extracted on February 17, 2016. Id. at 172.

         On June 2, 2016, went to the chronic care clinic, complaining of back pain and that he still did not have hearing aids. Id. at 173. He rated his pain as an 8/10 and told the doctor that the medication he was taking for the pain was no longer effective. Id. The doctor prescribed a different medication and also requested a follow-up appointment for Ford with the otolaryngologist. Id. at 177. On July 11, 2016, Ford complained of back pain and burning skin, but his medical file notes that he refused treatment. Id. at 186. On July, 26, 2016, a nurse practitioner requested an audiology appointment for Ford to get fitted for hearing aids. Id. at 187.

         On September 21, 2016, Ford had a routine dental exam. Id. at 190. The dentist again created a care plan that called for the rest of Ford's teeth to be extracted and full dentures. Id. at 191. This time, however, the plan listed tooths 1-16 and 20 for extraction. Id. Ford did not want his teeth extracted at that time and deferred treatment. Id. Ford says that he did not want his teeth extracted until the dentures were ready because it would be too difficult and painful to chew his food. Document #63 at 3-4. Ford's medical records do not reflect that he has had his remaining teeth extracted or that he has been fit for dentures. As of October 27, 2016, his medical records still list ‚ÄúDental caries extending ...

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