United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD A. LLORET, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Cruz was denied Social Security benefits by the decision of
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Ms. Cruz
contends that the ALJ's unfavorable decision was reached
in error. Doc. No. 2 (Complaint). Before I can reach the
merits of Ms. Cruz's claims, however, I must decide
whether this action should be dismissed for her failure to
pay the administrative and filing fee.
10, 2019, Ms. Cruz initiated this action and filed a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. No. 1.
I denied her in forma pauperis motion, finding her
financial status, as represented in her application, enabled
her to pay the filing fee.Doc. No. 7. I instructed Ms. Cruz that
in order to proceed with this case, she must pay the $400
administrative and filing fee within thirty days. See
Id. This meant she had until July 22, 2019 to pay the
fee. Having been informed that she had not yet paid the fee
as of July 23, 2019, see Doc. No. 8, I granted Ms.
Cruz an additional twenty-one days to meet this requirement,
see Doc. No. 9. I specifically warned her that if
she failed to pay, her case may be dismissed for failure to
prosecute. Id. On September 23, 2019, Ms. Cruz's
counsel informed me that Ms. Cruz “does not wish to pay
the filing fee.” Doc. No. 10. I then directed counsel
to explain why this matter should not be dismissed for
failure to prosecute. Doc. No. 11. On November 4, 2019,
counsel complied and filed a responsive brief. See
Doc. No. 12.
reasons discussed below, I conclude that Ms. Cruz's
action should be dismissed.
district court may dismiss an action if a plaintiff fails to
prosecute the case or comply with a court order. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); Allen v. American Fed. of
Gov't Employees, 317 Fed.Appx. 180, 181 (3d Cir.
2009) (not precedential) (citing to Spain v.
Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 454 (3d Cir. 1994)) (“A
court may dismiss a case with prejudice for want of
prosecution under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) in order to achieve the
orderly and expeditious disposition of cases . . . .”).
However, before doing so, the district court generally must
evaluate the factors identified in Poulis v. State Farm
Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984).
See, e.g., Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cty.,
923 F.3d 128, 131- 32 (3d Cir. 2019); Spain, 26 F.3d
at 455-56; Rawls v. Gibbs, 741 Fed.Appx. 108, 109
(3d Cir. 2018) (not precedential); Shelley v.
Patrick, 361 Fed.Appx. 299, 301 n.5 (3d Cir. 2010) (not
precedential). These factors include (1) the extent of the
plaintiff's responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the
defendant; (3) whether the plaintiff has a history of
improper delay; (4) whether the plaintiff's failure to
file was willful or in bad faith; and (6) whether the
plaintiff's claims are meritorious. Poulis, 747
F.2d at 868.
these factors alone are dispositive, and they do not all
“need to be satisfied to justify dismissal of a
complaint for lack of prosecution.”
Hildebrand, 923 F.3d at 132. But because dismissal
is a severe consequence, it should be “a sanction of
last, not first, resort, ” and any doubts should be
“resolved in favor of reaching a decision on the
merits.” Id. (quoting Poulis, 747
F.2d at 867, 869, then Adams v. Trs. Of the N.J. Brewery
Emps.' Pension Tr. Fund, 29 F.3d 863, 879 (3d Cir.
1994)). After careful review, I find that the Poulis
factors weigh in favor of dismissing this action.
Extent of plaintiff's responsibility.
Ms. Cruz contends that she is “without sufficient means
to pay the required filing fee, ” suggesting that her
responsibility is limited. Doc. No. 12, at 2-3. I disagree. When
considering her motion to proceed in forma pauperis,
I determined that Ms. Cruz was able to pay the
filing fee in this case. Notably, Ms. Cruz represented in her
application to proceed in forma pauperis that she
owned three cars, including a 2016 BMW 325, and a house
valued at $120, 000. Accordingly, I find that Ms. Cruz is
responsible for not paying the filing fee here and that this
factor strongly weighs in favor of dismissal.
Prejudice to the defendant.
regard to the second factor, Ms. Cruz argues that the
Commissioner has not yet been prejudiced, as the summons have
not issued and he has not been joined as a party. Doc. No.
12, at 3. I agree, and this factor does not weigh in favor of
dismissal. See, e.g., Johnson v. Nutter,
No. 15-423, 2016 WL 7217642, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 12, 2016);
Nieves v. Capozza, No. 18-1402, 2019 WL 5328819, at
*2-3 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 24, 2019). However, it should be noted
that “continued inaction frustrates and delays
resolution of this action' by preventing the defendants
from receiving notice of this lawsuit and seeking a timely
resolution of [the] claims.” Bowie v. Perry,
No. 19-13, 2019 WL 2412488, at *2 (W.D. Pa. May 13, 2019).
History of improper delay.
Ms. Cruz suggests that she does not have a history of
improper delay in this case, pointing to the fact that she
has “twice advised the court that she is unable to pay
the filing fee, ” has not sought an extension, and
remains unable to pay. Doc. No. 12, at 3-4. A history of
improper delay is “generally established by repeated
‘delay or delinquency.” Nieves, 2019 WL
5328819, at *3 (quoting Adams, 29 F.3d at 874).
While I agree that Ms. Cruz does not have a history of
improper delay in this matter, she has informed ...