Maness v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge J Foy Guin, Jr on 5/29/12. (CTS, )
2012 May-29 PM 03:09
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROGER SHEPPARD MANESS,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of Social Security,
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 11-G-3736-M
This cause is before the court upon the defendant’s motion for summary
judgment. The court has considered the defendant’s motion and the plaintiff’s response
thereto, as well as the evidentiary submissions of the parties. The defendant’s motion
asserts that the plaintiff did not file for judicial review within sixty days as required by 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). The plaintiff does not dispute that the appeal was not timely filed.
However, plaintiff argues that the limitations period should be equitably tolled.
Plaintiff alleges that he relied upon representations made to him by his
former attorneys and was never apprised that they were not going to file a civil action in
the Federal District Court until after the sixty day time limit had lapsed. Plaintiff argues
that he was subjected to “extraordinary circumstances such as fraud, misinformation or
deliberate concealment....” Pl.’s br. at 2. To support this argument, the plaintiff has
submitted an affidavit. In that affidavit, plaintiff avers that he received the Notice that the
Appeals Council had denied his request for review, and called his former attorneys.
Plaintiff avers that he was advised they would review his case and make a decision about
filing an appeal in Federal Court. Plaintiff avers that he was told that they would send
him a letter within the next week. Plaintiff avers that approximately one month passed
before he received a letter. The plaintiff avers that this letter was the first notice he
received that his appeal would not be filed by his former attorneys. That letter contains
I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you regarding decision [sic] of
the Appeals Council denying your request for review of the Administrative
Law Judge’s prior decision.
As we discussed, that denial gave you the option to a Federal Court action.
As we further discussed, this firm will not be filing that lawsuit It is my
understanding that you are going to file a new claim with the Social
Security Administration. Again, this firm will be happy to assist you with
that claim. Please contact us to discuss that matter further.
Plaintiff does not specifically set forth in what way plaintiff’s former
attorneys subjected him to “fraud, misinformation or deliberate concealment.” The
plaintiff in his affidavit does not aver that his former attorneys represented to him that
they would file an appeal in the District Court. At best his affidavit is evidence that his
former attorneys did not contact him within a week as promised, and then notified him
that they would not be filing an appeal on his behalf too late for him to do so.1
The letter from plaintiff’s former attorney indicates plaintiff had been informed
that her firm would not be filing an appeal. However, for the purposes of defendant’s
motion for summary judgment, the court must assume plaintiff had not been so informed.
A claimant seeking equitable tolling of section 405(g)'s statute of
limitations must “demonstrate extraordinary circumstances, such as fraud,
misinformation, or deliberate concealment.” Jackson v. Astrue, 506 F.3d 1349,1355 (11 th
Cir. 2007). It is well-established that “[e]quitable tolling ‘is an extraordinary remedy
which should be extended only sparingly.’” Bost v. Fed. Express Corp., 372 F.3d 1233,
1242 (11th Cir.2004)(quoting Justice v. United States, 6 F.3d 1474,1479 (11 th Cir. 1993).
Thus equitable tolling under section 405(g) “is reserved for extraordinary facts.” Jackson,
506 F.3d at 1353–54. In Sandik v. U.S., 177 F.3d 1269, 1271 (11 th Cir. 1999), the court
stated that equitable tolling was appropriate when a filing was untimely “because of
extraordinary circumstances that are both beyond his control and unavoidable even with
diligence.” In Jackson, the court noted that the negligence of a plaintiff’s attorney was
insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. Jackson, 506 F.3d at 1355.
Plaintiff has failed to introduce evidence showing that his untimely filing
was due to circumstances beyond his control, and was unavoidable even with the exercise
of due diligence. The plaintiff, with the exercise of due diligence, could have confirmed
whether or not his former attorneys would be filing an appeal prior to the deadline. Upon
not receiving the letter in the time promised, the plaintiff could have followed up with his
former attorneys and determined that they did not intend to file the appeal prior to the
Plaintiff’s affidavit does not directly allege that the representations in the letter were
false. However, he does aver that the letter was the “first notice I received that my
lawsuit was not being filed by [my former attorneys].”
expiration of the statutory time limit. The Eleventh Circuit cases emphasize that the
standard is “extraordinary circumstances” and that “excusable neglect” is insufficient to
allow the statute to be tolled. Negligence by the plaintiff and/or his attorneys does not
meet that standard. Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to introduce a genuine issue as to any
material fact and the defendant’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted.
An appropriate order will be entered contemporaneously herewith.
DONE and ORDERED 29 May 2012.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
J. FOY GUIN, JR.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?