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Earls v. Stringfellow

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

July 24, 2018

JACOB THOMAS EARLS ADC #114556 PLAINTIFF
v.
DR. STEVEN STRINGFELLOW and ARTHUR BROWN DEFENDANTS

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge D. P. Marshall, Jr. Any party may file written objections to this Recommendation. Objections must be specific and include the factual or legal basis for disagreeing with the Recommendation. An objection to a factual finding must specifically identify the finding of fact believed to be wrong and describe the evidence that supports that belief.

         An original and one copy of the objections must be received in the office of the United States District Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Wright can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Jacob Thomas Earls (“Earls”), an inmate at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), has filed this § 1983 action against Arthur Brown, an ADC correctional officer, and Dr. Steven Stringfellow, a dentist. Earls claims that Officer Brown and Dr. Stringfellow denied him constitutionally adequate care to treat an impacted wisdom tooth. Doc. 2.

         Officer Brown and Dr. Stringfellow have each filed Motions for Summary Judgment, Briefs in Support, and Statements of Undisputed Facts. Docs. 25-27 & 34-36. Earls has filed Responses in opposition. Docs. 41-43.

         Before addressing the merits of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court will summarize the relevant undisputed facts giving rise to Earls' claims against them:[1]

         1. On June 20, 2016, Earls turned in a health services request form seeking care for an impacted wisdom tooth. He wrote that the tooth was hurting and causing headaches. He further advised that he previously had a “similar wisdom tooth” that “had to be cut out.” (Med. Records, Doc. 36-1, Exh. A at p. 1; Earls Depo., 27-2, Exh. B at p. 5).

         2. On June 21, 2016, medical staff received Earls' request and made an appointment for him to see Dr. Stringfellow the next day, June 22. (Stringfellow Decl., Doc. 36-2, Exh. B at 1).

         3. On June 22, 2016, Dr. Stringfellow's office called Earls twice for his appointment, at 6:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., but Earls was not escorted to his appointment. (Med. Records, Doc. 36-1, Exh. A at p. 2; Stringfellow Decl., Doc. 36-2, Exh. B at 1).

         4. Dr. Stringfellow has no involvement in scheduling dental appointments or transporting inmates to their appointments. He does not know why Earls was not transported to his June 22 appointment. (Stringfellow Decl., Doc. 36-2, Exh. B at 1).

         5. On June 22, 2016, Earls was housed in administrative segregation at the Cummins unit, and Officer Brown was one of three correctional officers in the administrative segregation area where Earls was being held. Officer Brown received instruction from the control booth to get Earls “on standby for medical.” Officer Brown promptly advised Earls that he was on standby for medical and asked him if he needed a jumpsuit for the transfer. (Brown Aff., Doc. 27-1, Exh. A at ¶¶ 2, 4, 10-11).

         6. The next step would have been to take Earls to the “bullpen” to await an escort to his dental appointment. Brown did not take this “next step” because he never received an order to move Earls from his cell to the bullpen. (Id., at ¶¶ 8- 9, 13).

         7. Officer Brown lacks the authority to transfer an inmate from administrative segregation to a medical appointment without receiving an order instructing him to do so. Nor can he transfer an inmate by himself, because at least two correctional officers must transport inmates. (Id., at ¶ 14).

         8. In his interactions with Earls on June 22, Officer Brown was unaware of why Earls was scheduled for a medical appointment. Officer Brown did not observe anything about Earls' appearance suggesting he was in pain. Earls does not recall telling Officer Brown that he was in pain. ...


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