Dillow-Lopez v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 22 MOTION to Alter Judgment filed by Carolyn W. Colvin.Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 10/10/17. (bs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
KELLY J. DILLOW-LOPEZ,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-1442
(JUDGE MANNION) 1
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of
Pending before the court is the defendant’s motion to alter or amend
judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(Doc. 22). Based upon the court’s review, the motion will be denied.
On March 21, 2017, the court entered a judgment and order remanding
the instant action on the basis that the administrative law judge, (“ALJ”), gave
great weight to an examining physician and state agency physician and limited
weight to three of the plaintiff’s treating physicians. The defendant argues that,
The instant action was originally assigned to the Honorable Edwin M.
Kosik. However, by verbal order dated February 21, 2017, the matter was
transferred to the undersigned.
in reaching that conclusion, the court made an erroneous statement of law
that should be stricken from the March 21, 2017 memorandum.
Motions to alter or amend a judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e) serve primarily to correct analytical errors in a prior decision
of the court. See FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e); United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d
282, 287-88 (3d Cir. 2003). Under Rule 59(e), “a judgment may be altered or
amended if the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the
following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the
availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the
motion for summary judgment; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or
fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Max’s Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc.
v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). “A motion for reconsideration
is not to be used as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed
of . . . [n]or is it to be used to put forth additional arguments which could have
been made but which the party neglected to make before judgment.” Waye v.
First Citizen’s Nat. Bank, 846 F.Supp. 310, 314 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (citation
omitted). A motion for reconsideration is appropriate in instances where the
court has “. . . misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the
adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error
not of reasoning but of apprehension.” Rohrbach v. AT&T Nassau Metals
Corp., 902 F. Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995), vacated in part on other
grounds on reconsideration 915 F. Supp. 712 (M.D. Pa. 1996) quoting Above
the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va.
1983). Reconsideration of a judgment is an extraordinary remedy, and the
court grants such motions sparingly. D’Angio v. Borough of Nescopeck, 56
F.Supp.2d 502, 504 (M.D. Pa. 1999).
In this case, the Commissioner argues that the court made an error of
law in concluding that, when evaluating treating physician opinions, “’[g]ood
reasons’ must be higher than substantial evidence, otherwise, the ‘good
reasons’ language would be superfluous”. The Commissioner argues that
Congress has provided that “[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . .” 42 U.S.C.§405(g), and that substantial evidence “does not
mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 564-65 (1988) (quotation
omitted). By making the disputed statement regarding good reasons, the
Commissioner argues that the court concluded that the burden is higher than
Congress requires when the Commissioner rejects a treating physician’s
opinion and reads an agency regulation in a way that allows agency regulation
to trump the evidence standard set forth by statute. The Commissioner argues
that the regulations require only that the ALJ explain the weight given to a
treating source opinion, not to provide more evidence than is required
elsewhere in her decision.
In considering the Commissioner’s argument, a number of other courts
within this District have recognized the distinction between the review for legal
errors as to such matters as the weight afforded treating physicians opinions,
as opposed to the review for factual errors which are subject to the substantial
evidence standard. See e.g., Orndorff v. Colvin, 215 F.Supp.3d 391 (M.D.Pa.
2016); English v. Colvin, 2016 WL 1271405 (Mar. 31, 2016 M.D.Pa.);
McDonnell v. Colvin, 2016 WL 1425798 (Mar. 18, 2016 M.D.Pa.). The court
finds no error of law as to the challenged statement in the memorandum of
March 21, 2017, and will deny the Commissioner’s motion seeking to have the
S/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Date: October 10, 2017
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2016 MEMORANDA\16-1442-02.docx
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