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Patkins v. Tran

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 5, 2017

DAVID C. PATKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DOCKET NO. 23

          EDWARD M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this pro se prisoner's civil rights action, David Patkins contends that four prison dentists were deliberately indifferent in their responses to his complaints about his dental bridge. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, which Mr. Patkins has opposed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted and judgment entered against Mr. Patkins.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A dental bridge may be used to deal with missing teeth. The teeth at the end of a bridge are called the abutment teeth. The bridge may be cemented to those abutment teeth and covers the gap where the teeth between those abutment teeth are missing.

         This case concerns four dentists' responses to Mr. Patkins' requests for services on his dental bridge. The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         A. Dental Care For The Bridge

         The events and omissions giving rise to Mr. Patkins' complaint occurred in 2014 through late 2015. At the relevant time, Mr. Patkins was an inmate at the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad, California. Also at the relevant time, Dr. Tran, Dr. Babienco, Dr. Chang, and Dr. Kamminga were dentists providing dental care to inmates at CTF.

         Mr. Patkins received a dental bridge in 1998, covering a four-tooth area from his top right central incisor (i.e., tooth # 8) to his top left canine tooth (i.e., tooth # 11). (Docket No. 26 at 2.) The incisor and the canine were the abutment teeth on his bridge, and his bridge covered the gap where two teeth were missing between the abutment teeth.

         In 2007, the margin where the bridge met tooth # 8 was patched with a composite filling. (Docket No. 26 at 12; Dental 0015, 0018.)

         After 15 years and one patch job, the bridge developed problems, loosening at first and later fully detaching.

         On March 4, 2014, Mr. Patkins submitted a request for care because “one post” on his bridge was loose. (Dental 0046.)[1]

         On March 17, 2014, a nondefendant dentist saw Mr. Patkins, and noted that Mr. Patkins' bridge had no mobility but that the spaces between his gum and his abutment teeth were probed to pocket depths of 333/434. The gum depths pertain to the periodontal health of a tooth and those numbers reflect “moderate bone loss, ” according to dentist Dr. Uy. (Docket No. 23-1 at 3; Dental 0056-57.)

         On April 3, 2014, Dr. Babienco attempted to detach the bridge to recement it, but one side of it remained fastened so the bridge could not be detached for recementing. (Docket No. 26 at 2.)

         On May 22, 2014, Mr. Patkins submitted a request for periodontal treatment. One or two nondefendant dentists did the periodontal care (i.e., scaling and root planing) in two sessions, on May 22 and in mid-June 2014. (Docket No. 23-1 at 3; Dental 0056, 0058, 0061, 0067; Docket No. 26 at 2, 13.) According to Mr. Patkins, at the second session, the nondefendant dentist told him his abutment teeth were “'strong and healthy.'” (Docket No. 26 at 2, 13.)

         On June 10, 2014, Mr. Patkins requested care because his bridge had fully detached. (Dental 0062.) When the bridge detached, the exposed abutment teeth became highly sensitive to hot and cold temperatures in food, liquid and weather; and caused pain and headaches. (Docket No. 26 at 2-3.)

         On June 18, 2014, Dr. Tran noted on Mr. Patkins' treatment plan that the bridge needed to be recemented, but he did not see Mr. Patkins that day. (Docket No. 26 at 13.) On July 2, 2014, Dr. Tran recemented the bridge. (Dental 0066, 0068.) According to Mr. Patkins, before she recemented the bridge, Dr. Tran stated that the bridge did not fit right. (Docket No. 26 at 4.) Also according to Mr. Patkins, Dr. Tran said that dentists at CTF do not cement bridges and she proposed extracting the abutment teeth. (Id.; Docket No. 20 at 8.) Mr. Patkins' teeth were not extracted.

         On July 31, 2014, Mr. Patkins submitted a request for care because his bridge had loosened on about July 15, and his abutment teeth were highly sensitive. He noted that “maybe an outside expert is appropriate.” (Dental 0069.)

         Dr. Tran saw Mr. Patkins on August 6, 2014. Dr. Tran wrote that the bridge was not loose but that there was exposed enamel at the crown margin of tooth # 11. She again suggested tooth extraction. (Docket No. 23-1 at 3; Dental 0073.)

         On August 19 or 20, 2014, Dr. Babienco interviewed Mr. Patkins in connection with an inmate appeal. Dr. Babienco made a note to recement the bridge. (Dental 0074.)

         On September 5, 2014, Dr. Chang recemented the bridge using Duralon cement. Dr. Chang told Mr. Patkins that the bridge may loosen again. (Dental 0076 (“inf. pt. that prep of #8-11 FPD is too tapered & may loosen again.”))

         On October 4, 2014, Mr. Patkins submitted a request for care because his bridge had detached. He requested an “outside expert [to] properly cement [his] bridge.” (Dental 0077.)

         Dr. Babienco saw him on October 9, 2014, and advised Mr. Patkins that he would be given a ducat for an appointment to have a dentist recement the bridge. Dr. Babienco's note appears to state “ducat for recementation of bridge, if clinician [?] determines bridge cannot be recement[ed] then the issue is completed.” (Dental 0082.) Mr. Patkins states that Dr. Babienco told Mr. Patkins he could “wait till [his] life sentence is over before [he would] get a proper cementing” of the bridge.” (Docket No. 20 at 14.) Mr. Patkins alleges that Dr. Babienco “permanently banned plaintiff from dental services” (id.), but this apparently was hyperbole by either the dentist or patient because Mr. Patkins continued to receive care from Dr. Babienco and other dental staff.[2]

         On October 20, 2014, Dr. Chang recemented the bridge. Mr. Patkins signed a refusal to have teeth # 8 and # 11 extracted. Dr. Chang told him that the refusal may lead to pain and/or swelling, and to submit a form 7362 to request dental care. (Dental 0085.)

         On November 7, 2014, Dr. Uy (a nondefendant who was a supervising dentist at CTF) examined Mr. Patkins. Dr. Uy discussed with Mr. Patkins the possibility that teeth-grinding during sleep was causing additional problems with the bridge, and prescribed a night guard for Mr. Patkins' teeth. Dr. Uy also noted a slight gap between the bridge and the gum line. (Docket No. 23-1 at 4; Dental 0093.) Mr. Patkins told Dr. Uy that the gap was “filler sealed for those 15 years--until dentist Tran worked it off at the 7-2-14 recementing.” (Docket No. 20 at 15.) Mr. Patkins denies that he grinds his teeth.

         Mr. Patkins was fitted for a dental guard on November 17, 2014, and, when the night guard mold was removed, the bridge came out with it. Dr. Chang recemented the bridge that day. (Docket No. 20 at 16.) Mr. Patkins refused the night guard the next week. (Dental 0095.)

         On February 2, 2015, Mr. Patkins requested care for the bridge that had again detached. (Dental 0096.)

         Dr. Babienco recemented the bridge using Duralon cement on February 11, 2015. (Dental 0099.)

         On May 29, 2015, Mr. Patkins requested care for the bridge that had ...


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