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Arthur T. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 27, 2019

ARTHUR T., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          David W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff filed this action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), which denied him disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). See Dkt. 1. Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”). Dkt. 12. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 5.

         After reviewing the Motion, the parties' briefing, and the relevant record, the Court concludes Plaintiff failed to timely file his Complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision. Further, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the extraordinary circumstances which would warrant equitable tolling. As Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court grants Defendant's Motion (Dkt. 12).

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability as of June 13, 2014. See Dkt. 12-1, p. 8. The application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See id. A hearing was held before ALJ S. Andrew Grace on May 3, 2017. See Id. In a decision dated October 27, 2017, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. See Id. at pp. 8-18.

         The undisputed evidence shows that on September 26, 2018, the Appeals Council issued a “Notice of Appeals Council Action” (“Notice”), denying Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision and making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See Id. at pp. 24-26; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. In the Notice, the Appeals Council informed Plaintiff that he had 60 days to seek judicial review of the ALJ's decision by filing a civil action. Dkt. 12-1, p. 25. Specifically, the Notice stated:

• You have 60 days to file a civil action (ask for court review).
• 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. You must have a good reason for waiting more than 60 days to ask for court review. You must make the request in writing and give you reason(s) for the request.

Id.

         It is undisputed that, because the Appeals Council Notice was dated September 26, 2018, Plaintiff was presumed to have until November 30, 2018, to initiate a civil action in this Court. See id.; see also 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(c). On November 30, 2018, Plaintiff's attorney requested a 14-day extension from the Appeals Council to file a civil action. Dkt. 12-1, pp. 30-32. Plaintiff's attorney stated he requested this extension because he had been unable to contact Plaintiff for information necessary to file a civil action, and he now needed time to associate with local counsel. Id. at p. 32.

         On December 3, 2018, Plaintiff initiated the civil action in this Court. See Dkt. 1. On January 16, 2019, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for additional time to file a civil action. Dkt. 12-1, pp. 34-36. The Appeals Council found the reasons Plaintiff's counsel stated for needing an extension were “not good reasons for making or granting the request.” Id. at p. 34.

         On April 3, 2019, Defendant filed the Motion as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), arguing the Court should dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] Dkt. 14. On April 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response. Dkt. 14. Defendant filed a Reply on April 26, 2019. Dkt. 16. Both parties filed declarations and other documents in support of their arguments about the timeliness of Plaintiff's Complaint. See Dkt. 12, 12-1, 14, 14-1-14-4.

         After reviewing the briefing and documents filed by both parties, the Court, on May 22, 2019, issued the Order Converting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss to a Motion for Summary Judgment. See Dkt. 14; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court also gave both parties the opportunity to file optional supplemental briefing. Dkt. 14. Neither party filed supplemental briefing. See ...


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