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Texas Prison Dentist Settles Dentures Suit for $3,150

In April, 2003, a state prison dentist settled for $3,150 a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit brought by a prisoner in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging that the dentist refused to provide dentures.

Charles Jackson, a prisoner at the Texas DCJ's Coffield Unit, began requesting dentures from prison dentist Joseph Mitchell in 1995. Jackson is missing all of his front teeth and several back teeth. Mitchell denied dentures because Jackson was unable to successfully pass the "brush test" twice-in-a-row. The "brush test" indicates the amount of plaque on a person's teeth. However, evidence was produced showing that Mitchell routinely provided dentures to "white" prisoners after passing only one "brush test." Mitchell is white, Jackson is black.

Mitchell claimed that he was only following policy. Jackson responded that he was unable to chew his food in the 5 to 10 minutes allowed to eat a meal and that chewing food with his gums was painful.

In denying Mitchell's motion for summary judgment, the court noted that this was the second time that Mitchell was before it on a claim of denial of dental treatment for failure to pass the "brush test." In the previous case, Mitchell was found liable and ordered to pay the prisoner $1,000 in damages. See: Coats v. Moore, USDC EDTX, Case No. 6:96-CV-283. [PLN, Sep. 1998].

Mitchell appealed the denial of summary judgment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who denied his claim of qualified immunity in an unpublished opinion. A hotly contested issue was whether the "continuing tort doctrine" applied to toll Texas' 2-year statute of limitations so that Jackson could claim deliberate indifference for the entire six years that he went without dentures. The district court ruled that it was applicable and the Fifth Circuit declined to intervene. See: Jackson v. Mitchell, 5th Cir. Case No. 02-40305.

Jackson finally got his dentures with $3,150 deposited into his prison account. He represented himself pro se with this writer, Jon Withrow, defending on summary judgment and in the court of appeals. Settlement was arranged through a court-appointed attorney. See: Jackson v. Mitchell, USDC EDTX, Tyler Division, Case No. 6:Ol-CV-159.

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Related legal cases

Jackson v. Mitchell

54 Fed.Appx. 794

This case was not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter.

Please use FIND to look at the applicable circuit court rule before citing this opinion. Fifth Circuit Rule 47.5.4. (FIND CTA5 Rule 47.)

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

Charles Melvin JACKSON, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellee,
Joseph MITCHELL, Etc.; et al., Defendants, Joseph Mitchell, Dentist, Coffield
Unit, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 02-40305.

Dec. 10, 2002.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas USDC No. 6:01-CV-159.

Before BARKSDALE, DEMOSS, and BENAVIDES, Circuit Judges.


FN* Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4.

Dr. Joseph Mitchell appeals the district court's denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity. An order denying qualified immunity is immediately appealable if based on conclusions of law rather than the presence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Palmer v. Johnson, 193 F.3d 346, 350 (5th Cir.1999). However, "if the district court concludes that the summary judgment record raises a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the defense of qualified immunity is applicable, then that decision is not immediately appealable." Id. at 351.

We conclude, as did the magistrate judge, that there are genuine issues of material fact as to the existence of a serious dental need that preclude the grant of summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. Consequently, this court does not have jurisdiction over Dr. Mitchell's interlocutory appeal. See Palmer, 193 F.3d at 351.

We decline to exercise our pendent appellate jurisdiction over the magistrate judge's denial of Dr. Mitchell's statute-of-limitations defense because it is not "inextricably intertwined" with the denial of qualified immunity. See Thornton v. General Motors Corp., 136 F.3d 450, 454 (5th Cir.1998).


54 Fed.Appx. 794


Jackson v. Mitchell