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Prison dentist was deliberately indifferent, prisoner alleged
U.S. District Court, Eastern District
Civil Rights - 42 USC 1983; Government - Prisoner Suit; Medical Malpractice - Dentist; Civil Rights - Prisoners' Rights; Constitutional Law - Eighth Amendment
Johnny Calvin Ollis v. Michael Hardee, Tiffiney Harper and Roland Worrell, No. 5:14-ct-03071-D
March 3, 2017
Johnny Calvin Ollis (Male, 50s)
Elizabeth Guild Simpson; North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services Inc.; Raleigh, NC, for Johnny Calvin Ollis ■ Michele R. Luecking-Sunman; North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services Inc.; Raleigh, NC, for Johnny Calvin Ollis
Kenneth L. Jones; Carruthers & Roth, P.A.; Greensboro, NC, for Tiffiney Harper ■ Joseph Finarelli; North Carolina Department of Justice; Raleigh, NC, for Michael Hardee, Roland Worrell
In August 2012, plaintiff Johnny Calvin Ollis, 50s and serving a life sentence in state prison for first-degree murder, had two teeth extracted by Dr. Tiffney Harper, who served as the dentist at the facility where Ollis was housed. Ollis had severe tooth decay and Harper's plan was to extract all of his teeth, a few at a time, over the course of multiple appointments. After the first two teeth were extracted, Ollis requested that his care be transferred to Central Prison. A dentist at Central Prison completed the extractions in November. Ollis sued Harper under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that she was deliberately indifferent to his serious dental needs and that she inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on him. Ollis also sued Michael Hardee and Roland Worrell, two officials at the facility where Ollis was housed. The court dismissed the claims against Hardee and Worrell a few months before trial. The case proceeded against Harper only. Ollis specifically alleged that his teeth were in such bad condition and causing him such pain that Harper should have removed all of them at a single appointment. He further argued that, during the extraction in August, she failed to use sufficient anesthesia. Harper denied the allegations. She and her expert, also a dentist, testified that Harper's treatment plan for Ollis was reasonable. The patient's condition is only one factor to be considered, they said. They maintained that it was reasonable for Harper, based on her experience and training, to decide that she was not comfortable extracting all the teeth at a single appointment. They additionally claimed that the time and resources available in the facility were inadequate for such a procedure, which would require numbing the patient's entire mouth.
Ollie claimed he was in excruciating pain for several months longer than necessary and that, because Harper did not numb him sufficiently, he suffered additional pain during the extractions she performed. Ollis sought $10,000 for past pain and suffering.
The jury did not find that Harper was deliberately indifferent to Ollis' dental needs or that she inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on him. As a result, a defense verdict was entered.
James C. Dever III
This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiff's counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.