COLLINS v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
MEMORANDUM ORDER Dismissing Complaint without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). Signed by Judge Peter G. Sheridan on 3/27/2017. (km)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MARIA L. COLLINS,
Civil Action No. 15-8352 (PGS)
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
This matter comes before the Court upon the appeal of Maria L. Collins (“Plaintiff’) from
the final decision of Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social
Administration (“Defendant”), denying her request for benefits. (ECF No. 1). The
jurisdiction to review this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). For the reasons set forth below,
the Court dismisses Plaintiffs complaint without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule
On November 30, 2015, Plaintiff appealed Defendant’s denial of her request for benefit
(ECF No. 1). On May 10, 2016, Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint and submit
Administrative Record. (ECF Nos. 4, 5.) The text entry that accompanied Defend
ant’s May 10,
2016 answer reflected that Plaintiffs brief was due by July 25, 2016. (ECF No. 4). Plainti
to file a moving brief. On January 11, 2017, the Court issued a Notice of Call for Dismis
was returnable on January 24, 2017. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff also failed to respon
d to the Notice of
Call for Dismissal.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) provides that ‘[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or
to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any
claim against it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 1(b). The Court’s consideration of whether to dismiss an action
under Rule 41(b) is governed by the following factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Fire &
Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984):
(1) the extent of the party’s personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the
adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery;
(3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was
willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which
entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim
With respect to the first Poulis factor, Plaintiff has failed to comply with the District Court
of New Jersey’s Local Civil Rules. Specifically, Local Civil Rule 9.1(e)(1) clearly provides that
“Plaintiff shall file a brief within 75 days of the receipt of answer to the complaint.” L. Civ. R.
9.1(e)(l). Moreover, Plaintiff failed to respond to the Court’s January 11, 2017 Notice of Call for
Dismissal, which required counsel to “show good cause by affidavit setting forth what good faith
efforts to prosecute this action have been made and what further efforts are intended.” (Jan. 11,
2017 Notice). Notably, over two months have elapsed since the return date on the Notice of Call
for Dismissal yet the docket reflects no communication whatsoever from Plaintiff’s counsel.
Accordingly, the first Poulis factor weighs in favor of dismissal.
The second Poulis factor weighs somewhat in favor of dismissal. In the type of
administrative appeal currently at issue, paper discovery is not exchanged and depositions are not
taken, so Plaintiff’s failure to prosecute her case does not result in the type ofinjustice to Defendant
that is present in traditional civil cases. Nevertheless, Defendant filed an answer to Plaintiff’s
Complaint and the administrative record, which reflects Defendant’s readiness to participate in the
action. The Court, therefore, finds at least some inherent prejudice to Defendant caused by the
delay resulting from Plaintiffs failure to prosecute her case.
With respect to the third Poulis factor, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in November 2015 and
filed an executed summons on March 14, 2016. (ECF Nos. 1, 3). While this case has a limited
history, its limited history reflects dilatoriness on the part of Plaintiff. Accordingly, the third Poulis
factor weighs somewhat in favor of dismissal.
As to the fourth Poitlis factor, the Court does not find that Plaintiffs conduct has been in
bad faith. As such, this factor weighs neither for nor against dismissal.
The fifth Poatlis factor weighs in favor of dismissal. The Court’s Notice of Call for
Dismissal provided Plaintiff the opportunity to set forth her good faith efforts to prosecute the
action and to advise the Court of the further efforts she intended to utilize to prosecute the action.
(ECF No. 6). Plaintiff failed to respond. Based on the current facts, the Court finds that no lesser
sanction would be effective.’
Finally, the sixth Poulis factor appears to weigh in favor of dismissal. On appeal from the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, the district court must
determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner’s
decision. Rutherford v. Barnhart. 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005); see Plummer v. ApJèl, 186
F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Plummer, 186 F.3d
The Court notes that the Notice of Call for Dismissal provided that if Plaintiff failed to file an affidavit
before the retum date, “counsel of record
may be required to appear before the Court, to show good
cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution.” In light of Plaintiffs failure to
prosecute her case during the extended period of time that has elapsed subsequent to the January 24, 2017
return date on the Notice of Call for Dismissal, the Court will not issue an Order to Show Cause.
at 427. In reviewing the record for substantial evidence, a court “may not weigh the evidence or
substitute [its own] conclusions for those of the fact-finder.” Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 552 (internal
quotation marks omitted). Even if the court would have decided differently, it is bound by the
Administrative Law Judge’s (“AU”) decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Fargnoli
v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38 (3d Cir. 2001).
The administrative record in this matter contains two decisions and reflects careful
consideration by the AU. In his first decision, dated October 31, 2013, the AU analyzed whether
Plaintiffs work as a waitress constituted substantial gainful activity (“SGA”). (AR 33, ECF No.
5). The AU determined that because Plaintiff performed waitress work under special conditions,
she had not engaged in SQA since the alleged onset date. (Id.) The AU, therefore, remanded the
case to Disability Determination Services for reconsideration. (Id. at
In his second decision,
dated May 4, 2015, the AU: (1) set forth the relevant legal standards; (2) listed Plaintiff’s
impairments; (3) discussed Plaintiffs medical treatment; (4) considered Plaintiffs activities of
daily living; and (5) analyzed the evidence, including the vocational expert’s testimony. (See
generally AR 15-24).
Here, the Court has reviewed the record in this matter, albeit without the benefit of legal
arguments from either party due to Plaintiffs failure to adhere to Local Civil Rule 9.1(e)(1) or
respond to the Court’s Notice of Call for Dismissal. At the very least, it appears from the Court’s
review of the record that the AU’s decision was most likely supported by substantial evidence.
Accordingly, the final Poulis factor weighs in favor of dismissal.
In his initial decision, the AU made no findings with respect to Plaintiffs disability status. (AR 33).
As the majority of the Poulis factors weigh in favor of dismissal, the Court finds good
cause to dismiss the matter without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).
An appropriate order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
For the reasons set forth above;
IT IS on this
day of March, 2017;
ORDERED that the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 4 1(b).
PETER 0. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
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