Landis v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss 6 ; signed by Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody (Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody, jal)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Hon. Ellen S. Carmody
Case No. 1:14-CV-1217
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. #6).
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed on the ground that it was not timely
filed. On February 18, 2015, the parties agreed to proceed in this Court for all further proceedings,
including an order of final judgment. (Dkt. #10). For the reasons articulated herein, Defendant’s
motion to dismiss is granted.
On November 25, 2014, Plaintiff initiated the present action appealing the
Commissioner’s decision denying his claim for benefits. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), appeals
such as this must be filed in the district court within 60 days of the Commissioner’s final decision.
This requirement is not jurisdictional in nature, but instead operates as a statute of limitations. See
Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 478 (1986). However, because this limitations period
constitutes a waiver of sovereign immunity it “must be strictly construed.” Id. at 479.
Equitable tolling of the limitations period is appropriate only in “exceptional
circumstances” and Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that such circumstances exist. See
Kellum v. Commissioner of Social Security, 295 Fed. Appx. 47, 49 (6th Cir., Oct. 1, 2008).
Equitable tolling “generally applies only when a litigant’s failure to meet a legally-mandated
deadline unavoidably arose from circumstances beyond that litigant’s control.” Id. at 50. As
discussed below, Plaintiff’s action was filed after the expiration of the relevant 60 day period. While
equitable tolling of the limitations period is appropriate in certain limited circumstances, Plaintiff
has failed to establish entitlement thereto. Furthermore, while Plaintiff could have requested from
the Commissioner an extension of time within which to initiate his appeal in the district court, he
made no such request.
The evidence submitted by Defendant reveals the following. Plaintiff filed for
disability benefits on March 8, 2012. (Dkt. #7 at Page ID#28). In a decision dated July 31, 2013,
Plaintiff’s claim for benefits was denied. (Dkt. #7 at Page ID#28-37). Plaintiff appealed this
determination to the Appeals Council. In a decision dated August 28, 2014, the Appeals Council
declined to review the ALJ’s determination, rendering it the Commissioner’s final decision in the
matter. (Dkt. #7 at Page ID#39-41). This decision instructed Plaintiff that if he wished to seek
judicial review of the Commissioner’s determination, he must do so within 60 days. (Dkt. #7 at Page
ID#40). Plaintiff was further informed that
The 60 days start the day after you receive this letter. We assume you
received this letter 5 days after the date on it unless you show us that
you did not receive it within the 5-day period.
If you cannot file for court review within 60 days, you may ask the
Appeals Council to extend your time to file.
(Dkt. #7 at Page ID#40).
Accordingly, the 60 day limitations period began to run September 3, 2014, and
expired on November 3, 2014. Plaintiff initiated the present action on November 25, 2014. Thus,
Plaintiff’s action is untimely. As indicated above, the relevant statute of limitations is subject to
equitable tolling in certain circumstances. However, Plaintiff has not established entitlement to such
relief. In fact, Plaintiff has failed to even respond to the present motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff was notified of the time period within which to file his claim in the district
court and there is neither evidence nor allegation that Defendant undertook any improper action in
this matter. See Bowen, 476 U.S. at 481-82; Day v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 1052, 1058 (6th Cir. 1994);
White v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 2003 WL 22905309 at *1-2 (6th Cir., Nov. 26, 2003). Finally,
while Plaintiff could have requested an extension of time within which to file his appeal in the
district court, he did not request any such extension. (Dkt. #7 at Page ID#20-23).
For the reasons articulated herein, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, (Dkt. #6), is
granted. A judgment consistent with this opinion will enter.
Date: March 13, 2015
/s/ Ellen S. Carmody
ELLEN S. CARMODY
United States Magistrate Judge
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