Goode v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 8 Commissioner's MOTION to Dismiss . Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephanie A Gallagher on 9/18/2017. (jf3s, Deputy Clerk) Modified on 9/18/2017 (jf3s, Deputy Clerk).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
VERONICA R. GOODE,
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY
Civil Case No. PX-17-833
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Pursuant to Standing Order 2014-01, the above-referenced case was referred to me to
review the pending dispositive motion and to make recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b) and Local Rule 301.5(b)(ix). Plaintiff Veronica Goode filed this action under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the denial of her Social Security disability
claim by Defendant Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner”). [ECF No. 1]. The
Commissioner has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), on the grounds that Ms. Goode failed to exhaust her
opposition. [ECF No. 9].
[ECF No. 8].
I have reviewed that motion and Ms. Goode’s
No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the reasons stated below, I recommend that the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss be
In September, 2011, Ms. Goode filed a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
[ECF No. 8-3, p. 2]. Ms. Goode’s claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. at pp.
2-3. A hearing was held on September 16, 2015, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
Id. at p. 19. Following the hearing, on November 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a partially favorable
decision finding that Ms. Goode became disabled on September 16, 2014, but determining that
she was not disabled prior to that date. Id. at pp. 19-27.
On February 7, 2017, the Appeals Council (the “AC”) granted Plaintiff’s request for
review, and notified Ms. Goode of its intention to “correct the November 10, 2015 decision to
clarify that its findings apply to the period beginning April 22, 2011[.]”
Id. at p. 34.
Additionally, in that notice, the AC permitted Ms. Goode to send further “evidence or a
statement about the facts and the law in [her] case within 30 days[.]” Id. at p. 35. Instead, on
March 28, 2017, Ms. Goode filed her appeal in this Court. [ECF No. 1]. Subsequently, on May
10, 2017, the AC issued its final decision. [ECF No. 8-3, p. 3]. After seeking an extension of
time, to which Ms. Goode consented, the Commissioner filed the instant motion to dismiss on
July 19, 2017. [ECF No. 8].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction are governed by Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(1). While the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the court has jurisdiction over the
claim or controversy at issue, a 12(b)(1) motion should be granted only if the “material
jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of
law.” Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children’s Guild, 742 F. Supp. 2d 772, 777 (D. Md. 2010); see
also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int’l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).
In a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the pleadings should be regarded as
“mere evidence on the issue,” and courts may “consider evidence outside the pleadings without
converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Evans, 166 F.3d at 647.
The Commissioner argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction over Ms. Goode’s
claim because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and is not appealing from a final
[ECF No. 8, pp. 1-8].
Specifically, the Commissioner contends that Ms. Goode
prematurely filed her complaint after the AC issued a notice of its proposed findings, which “did
not grant [Ms. Goode] court rights” and “was not a final decision.” [ECF No. 8-3, p. 3]. Ms.
Goode concedes that she untimely filed her complaint. [ECF No. 9, p. 1] (noting that, “in
reviewing the Notice of Appeals Council Action, . . . [she] mistakenly presumed that the [AC’s]
proposed findings were final and filed the instant appeal”). However, she contends that good
cause exists to extend the filing deadline, and that, therefore, the Commissioner’s motion to
dismiss should be denied. Id. at pp. 1-2.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the statute on which the Commissioner bases her motion, provides, in
Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
made after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in
controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action commenced
within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision or within
such further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may allow.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “[T]he provision of section 405(g) requiring a claimant to commence a civil
action for judicial review within 60 days of a final decision is a period of limitation subject to
equitable tolling.” Hyatt v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 376, 378 (4th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). A late
filing, therefore, may be excused “where the equities in favor of tolling the limitations period are
so great that deference to the [A]gency’s judgment is inappropriate.” Bowen v. City of New
York, 476 U.S. 467, 480 (1986).
Where a party moves to toll the filing period after the deadline has passed, Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 6 provides that, “the court may, for good cause, extend the time…if the party
failed to act because of excusable neglect.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B). “Whether neglect is
‘excusable’ has been described by the Supreme Court as ‘at bottom an equitable [inquiry], taking
account of all relevant circumstances,’ including the following: (1) the danger of prejudice to the
non-movant; (2) the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings; (3) the
reason for the delay, including whether it was in the reasonable control of the movant; and (4)
whether the movant acted in good faith.” Fernandes v. Craine, 538 F. App’x 274, 276 (4th Cir.
2013) (quoting Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P’ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395
(1993)). The Fourth Circuit has “stressed that the third Pioneer factor—the reason for the
delay—is the ‘most important.’” Id. (citing Thompson v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 76
F.3d 530, 534 (4th Cir. 1996)).
Weighing these factors, Ms. Goode has demonstrated excusable neglect, and good cause
exists to extend the filing deadline. Although Ms. Goode prematurely filed her complaint, the
Commissioner denied Ms. Goode the chance to cure her mistake by seeking an extension of time
to file a “pre-Answer motion” that ran beyond Ms. Goode’s 60-day limitations period. [ECF No.
6]; see [ECF No. 7].
Ms. Goode’s motion had to be filed by July 10, 2017, and the
Commissioner’s extension allowed her to wait to file the full motion to dismiss until July 19,
2017. Additionally, the Commissioner’s request for an extension was untimely filed more than
two weeks after the deadline, which further impaired Ms. Goode’s ability to cure her premature
complaint within the filing period.1
Thus, while the Commissioner may not have
Specifically, the Commissioner was required to file a motion for an extension of time by May 29, 2017. However,
the Commissioner did not file her motion until June 16, 2017. [ECF No. 6]; see Peterson v. Air Line Pilots Ass’n,
Int’l, 759 F.2d 1161, 1164 (4th Cir. 1985) (noting that a defendant may waive a limitations argument if it does not
raise it promptly in an answer or motion).
intentionally misled Ms. Goode, and has no responsibility to ensure Ms. Goode’s conformity
with the limitations period, “the delay in [filing her motion to dismiss] plainly contributed to
[Ms. Goode’s] inability to cure on time.” Worley v. Colvin, No. CIV.A. 2:12-2204-CMC, 2013
WL 1808269, at *2 (D.S.C. Mar. 15, 2013), report and recommendation adopted, No. CA 2:122204-CMC-BHH, 2013 WL 1808268 (D.S.C. Apr. 29, 2013).
Moreover, Ms. Goode would be irreparably injured if the exhaustion requirement were
enforced in this case. [ECF No. 9, p. 2] (noting that the Commissioner’s delay prevented Ms.
Goode from “dismiss[ing] this appeal and fil[ing] a new appeal”); see Macheski v. Leavitt, No.
4:06-CV-85 (CDL), 2007 WL 2710466, at *4 (M.D. Ga. Sept. 13, 2007) (“The adoption of the
[Commissioner]’s argument would . . . leave Plaintiff with no recourse whatsoever. He cannot
seek further administrative review because he has exhausted all of his administrative remedies,
and yet under the [Commissioner]’s argument he is foreclosed from judicial review because he
has not exhausted his administrative remedies.”). Conversely, allowing Ms. Goode to timely file
her complaint risks no danger of prejudice to the Commissioner, and will have minimal delay
and impact on the judicial proceedings. Fernandes, 538 F. App’x at 276. To the contrary, the
“Fourth Circuit has established a ‘strong policy that cases be decided on the merits.’” AlvarezSoto v. B. Frank Joy, LLC, No. CV TDC-15-1120, 2017 WL 2731300, at *3 (D. Md. June 23,
2017) (quoting United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 462 (4th Cir. 1993)); see Fuson
v. Astrue, No. C09-00754 RS, 2010 WL 3833671, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2010) (“Consistent
with Supreme Court precedent favoring substance over form, this Court considers the merits of
[plaintiff’s] prematurely filed appeal.”).
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has held that practical, not technical, considerations are
to govern the application of principles of finality. See Gillespie v. United States Steel Corp., 379
U.S. 148, 152 (1964); see also Bowen, 476 U.S. at 480 (noting that Social Security regulations
were “designed to be ‘unusually protective’ of claimants”). Indeed, this Court is “especially
sensitive to this kind of harm where the government seeks to require claimants to exhaust
administrative remedies merely to enable them to receive the procedure they should have been
afforded in the first place.” Bowen, 476 U.S. at 484. Therefore, considering the facts of this
case, “it would be manifestly unfair to penalize [the claimant] . . . by such an unforgiving
application of the filing period.” Worley, 2013 WL 1808269, at *2.
For the foregoing reasons, I recommend that the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss,
[ECF No. 8], be denied. Any objections to this Report and Recommendations must be served
and filed within fourteen (14) days, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) and Local Rule 301.5.b.
NOTICE TO PARTIES
Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and
recommendations of the Magistrate Judge contained in the foregoing report within fourteen (14)
days after being served with a copy of this report may result in the waiver of any right to a de
novo review of the determinations contained in the report and such failure shall bar you from
challenging on appeal the findings and conclusions accepted and adopted by the District Judge,
except upon grounds of plain error.
Dated: September 18, 2017
Stephanie A. Gallagher
United States Magistrate Judge
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?