Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

HUDSON v. SULLIVAN

November 25, 1991

MARIAN HUDSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOUIS W. SULLIVAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ziegler, District Judge.

OPINION

Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for the entry of judgment for widow's disability benefits and a petition by plaintiff's counsel for approval of attorney's fees,*fn1 pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), and response of defendant. For the reasons set forth below, we will grant the motion and petition.

BACKGROUND

On June 7, 1983, plaintiff, Marian Hudson, filed an application for widow's disability benefits based on the earnings record of her deceased spouse. In a decision dated March 25, 1985, the administrative law judge found that Hudson did not have an impairment or combination of impairments equal or medically equivalent to a listed impairment and denied Hudson's claim for disability benefits. On September 5, 1985, the Appeals Council denied review. Hudson filed suit in this court and alleged that the Secretary's regulations and rulings for determining such benefits violated the Social Security Act, due process, and established law in this jurisdiction. Hudson sought nationwide class certification.

In Hudson v. Sullivan, 717 F. Supp. 340, 351 (W.D.Pa. 1989), we denied plaintiff's request for class certification. However, we held that Social Security Ruling 83-19 ("SSR 83-19") violated the Social Security Act and prohibited the Secretary from considering Hudson's functional limitations when determining whether her impairments were equivalent to the requirements of impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Appendix 1 to Subpart P. We remanded to the Secretary to consider Hudson's functional limitations when determining whether her impairments met or equalled the requirements of listed impairments when evaluated without applying the invalidated provision of SSR 83-19.

The Secretary considered, via the ALJ, additional material evidence pertaining to Hudson's functional limitations and impairments through the testimony of Richard M. Klein, M.D. Dr. Klein testified that Hudson suffered from cervical spondylosis and pain. The ALJ found that these impairments met the severity requirements of listed impairments. Record at 435. On July 17, 1990, the ALJ awarded disabled widow's benefits to Hudson, effective August 26, 1983, under § 202(e) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(e). R. at 438. However, the ALJ found that Hudson's impairments and all resulting functional limitations did not meet or equal the listed impairments before that date. R. at 437.

On April 10, 1991, almost nine months after the decision, Hudson moved for the entry of judgment and her counsel filed a petition for attorney's fees. On June 19, 1991, the Secretary filed a supplemental transcript of proceedings on remand which included the testimony of Dr. Klein, the new findings of fact, and a decision.

The issues raised by the parties are (1) whether this court entered final judgment on May 31, 1989, and therefore counsel's EAJA petition was time barred after August 29, 1989;*fn2 (2) whether the equitable doctrines of tolling and estoppel bar the Secretary's defense that the EAJA petition was untimely;*fn3 (3) whether Hudson was a prevailing party under the EAJA; and (4) whether the Secretary's position under the EAJA was substantially justified.

I

The EAJA provides that "[a] party seeking an award of fees and other expenses shall, within thirty days of final judgment in the action, submit to the court an application for fees and other expenses which shows that the party is a prevailing party and is eligible to receive an award. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). Therefore, we must determine whether our remand in Hudson constituted a final judgment under the EAJA.

Only two types of remands are permitted for actions under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "[R]emand orders must either accompany a final judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the administrative decision in accordance with sentence four, or conform with the requirements outlined by Congress in sentence six." Melkonyan v. Sullivan, ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 2157, 2165, 115 L.Ed.2d 78 (1991).

Prior to Melkonyan, case law in this jurisdiction did not require a plaintiff to file a fee petition until thirty days after a district court entered final judgment and the appeal period expired. In the present case, the Secretary argues that Melkonyan must be applied retroactively and that our remand in Hudson accompanied a final judgment pursuant to sentence four. Conversely, Hudson contends that this court did not enter final judgment because sentence six governed the remand, or in the alternative, that Melkonyan must be applied prospectively.

Sentence four of § 405(g) provides that "[t]he court shall have power to enter . . . a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Secretary, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In sentence four cases, the filing period begins after final judgment is entered by the court and the appeal ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.