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Camara v. Fredrickson

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 23, 2014

Joseph E. Camara, Plaintiff,
J. Fredrickson, DDS, et al., Defendants.


FREDERICK J. MARTONE, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph E. Camara brought this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. George L. Loughner, Jr., a dentist with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) (Doc. 1). Before the Court is Dr. Loughner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18), Camara's response (Doc. 21), and Loughner's Reply (Doc. 29).[1]

The Court will grant the motion and terminate the action.

I. Background

Camara's claim arose during his confinement at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman, Cook Unit. He alleged that Dr. Loughner retaliated against him for filing a grievance (Doc. 1 at 7-14[2]). In his Complaint, Camara set forth the following background facts in support of his claim:

On November 18, 2011, Camara awoke to severe pain from an upper front tooth. He reported to the Cook Unit dental area, where Dr. Fredrickson examined him, took x-rays, and diagnosed an abscess. Dr. Fredrickson told Camara that under prison policy, his only option was to extract the tooth; however, Camara said he wanted to save the tooth. Dr. Fredrickson acknowledged that the tooth could be saved with a root canal, but told Camara that policy required that the tooth be pulled. Dr. Fredrickson also told Camara he could seek a second opinion, which Camara requested. Dr. Fredrickson refused Camara's request for antibiotics for the infection.

That evening, Camara lost consciousness and fell backwards hitting his head on the floor. He was airlifted to Maricopa Medical Center, where he was treated for a concussion and a cut to his head was stapled. A toxicology screen revealed that Camara had a blood infection requiring antibiotics. Camara returned to Cook Unit on November 19, 2011. Shortly after his return, Camara began vomiting. He was returned to the hospital and was hospitalized for three and a half days. Tests showed that Camara's black-out resulted from the abscessed tooth. Antibiotics cleared up Camara's septicemia.

On December 12, 2011, Camara initiated the prison grievance process by filing an informal grievance in which he complained about incompetent and deliberately indifferent care by dentist Dr. Fredrickson in response to the tooth abscess. (Doc. 19, Ex. 2 (Doc. 19-1 at 36)).

On January 3, 2012, Camara was summoned to the dental area, where he was seen by Dr. Loughner for a second opinion. Camara alleges that when Dr. Loughner realized Camara was the inmate who had filed the administrative grievance, Dr. Loughner treated him in a rude and abusive manner, used expletives and derogatory language, and told Camara that there was no way he was going to receive a root canal, and that he would write an "airtight evaluation" to ensure Camara would not get one ( id. at 12-13).

Dr. Loughner diagnosed Camara's #9 tooth as having chronic apical pulpal necrosis or granuloma with internal resorption, and he concurred with Dr. Fredrickson's prior evaluation (DSOF ¶¶ 12-13). Dr. Loughner states that Camara did not meet the criteria for a root canal as set forth in the ADC Dental Services Technical Manual because his oral health was inadequate, he had poor oral hygiene and a history of periodontal issues, and his overall periodontal status was not good ( id. ¶ 14). Dr. Loughner asserts that he would have recommended a root canal despite Camara's poor overall periodontal status and poor oral hygiene if his #9 tooth was periodontally sound. But Dr. Loughner states that Camara's #9 tooth was not sound due to internal resorption, absence of part of the periodontal ligament, and some bone loss ( id. ¶ 19). He further states that the tooth was not a periodontally stable abutment tooth for an existing bridge or partial ( id. ¶ 18). Dr. Loughner states that he does not recall the exam, though it is possible he used unprofessional language; however, any unprofessional comments did not affect the outcome of his examination or recommended treatment ( id. ¶¶ 22, 24).

On May 24, 2012, Camara was seen by a third dentist, Dr. Krebs, who performed a simple extraction of Camara's #9 tooth. ( id. ¶ 26)

Dr. Loughner now moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Camara's First Amendment rights were not violated, Dr. Loughner is entitled to qualified immunity and the Eleventh Amendment bars Camara's monetary claim against Dr. Loughner in his official capacity (Doc. 18).

II. Retaliation Governing Standard

Prisoners have a First Amendment right to file grievances and pursue civil rights actions. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567 (9th Cir. 2005). Thus, allegations of retaliation against an inmate's First Amendment rights to speech or to petition the government may support a civil rights claim. See Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 ...

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