United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER P. RAMANEE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
A. Sitarski United States Magistrate Judge
P. Ramanee, (“Plaintiff”), filed this pro
se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking
review of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration's decision denying his claim for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has filed a
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint as untimely. This
matter is before me for disposition upon consent of the
parties. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and
Plaintiff's request for review is DENIED as untimely.
October 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits
under the Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning
October 7, 2015. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, Podraza Decl.,
1, ECF No. 13-1). After his claim was denied at the initial
level, he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on February 5,
2018. (Id.). Plaintiff, represented by an attorney,
appeared and testified at the hearing. (Id.). On
April 9, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits
under the Act. (Id.). Plaintiff requested review of
the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Id.
at Ex. 2). On December 13, 2018, the Appeals Council notified
Plaintiff that it had denied his request for review.
(Id.). In the letter denying review, the Appeals
Council notified Plaintiff that he could file a civil action
in federal court for review of the ALJ's decision within
sixty days. (Id.). The Appeals Council further
informed him that, for good cause, he could request the
Council to extend his time to file a civil action.
February 13, 2019, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals
Council grant him an extension to file a civil action.
(Id. at Ex. 3). On May 7, 2019, the Appeals Council
responded, acknowledging Plaintiff's request, but noting
that Plaintiff had not explained why he required more time.
(Id. at Ex. 4). The Appeals Council informed
Plaintiff that if he required an extension to file a civil
action, he needed to reply within thirty days explaining the
reason for the request. (Id.). The Council did not
receive a response. On June 25, 2019, the Appeals Council
denied his request for an extension of time to file a civil
action. (Id. at Ex. 5).
of replying to the Appeals Council, on May 30, 2019,
Plaintiff filed the instant pro se Complaint and a
Motion for Appointment of Counsel. (Compl., ECF No. 2; Mot.,
ECF No. 3). On June 3, 2019, I referred this matter for
review by the Attorney Panel for Pro Se Plaintiffs
in Social Security Cases. (Order, ECF No. 8). I also stayed
the briefing schedule pending review by the Attorney Panel,
but explained that the Procedural Order governing the
Commissioner's Answer remained in effect. (Id.
at ¶ 3). I further noted that “[i]n the event the
[Commissioner] files a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint instead of an answer, Plaintiff will be required to
file a response to the motion in the event no attorney has
yet accepted this case from the Panel. Local Rule 7.1(c)
requires a party opposing a motion to file a response within
fourteen (14) days after service of the motion and supporting
brief.” (Id. at ¶ 4).
August 26, 2019, in lieu of filing an Answer, the
Commissioner filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing that
Plaintiff's action is time-barred. (Mot. Dismiss, ECF No.
13). Plaintiff did not file a response to the Motion. On
October 4, 2019, I removed this matter from the Social
Security Panel because no attorney accepted this appointment.
(Order, ECF No. 14). I also lifted the stay and gave
Plaintiff a twenty-day extension to file his response to the
Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss, even though the time
for opposing the Motion to Dismiss had already expired.
(Id. at ¶ 3). As of the date of this opinion,
Plaintiff has not filed a response to the Commissioner's
Motion to Dismiss, or otherwise communicated with the Court.
405(g) of the Social Security Act imposes a sixty-day
limitations period for individuals to file a civil action in
federal court challenging a final decision of the
Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (providing that an
“individual, after any final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing . . .
may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action
commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of
notice of such decision or within such further time as the
Commissioner of Social Security may allow.”). The
Supreme Court has explained that “[i]n addition to
serving its customary purpose, the statute of limitations
embodied in § 405(g) is the mechanism by which Congress
was able to move cases to speed resolution in a bureaucracy
that processes millions of claims annually.” Bowen
v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 481 (1986). As the
Bowen Court stated, “the 60-day requirement is
not jurisdictional, but rather constitutes a period of
limitations . . . . [I]t is a condition on the waiver of
sovereign immunity and thus must be strictly
construed.” Bowen v. City of New York, 476
U.S. 467, 478-79 (1986) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge,
424 U.S. 319, 328 n.9 (1976)); see also Block v. North
Dakota, 461 U.S. 273, 281 (1983) (“[W]hen Congress
attaches conditions to legislation waiving the sovereign
immunity of the United States, those conditions must be
strictly observed, and exceptions thereto are not to be
405(g)'s limitation period is subject to equitable
tolling. Bowen, 476 U.S. at 480. However, equitable
tolling is “to be applied sparingly.”
Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S.
101, 113 (2002). There are “three principal bases for
applying the doctrine of equitable tolling: ‘(1) where
the defendant has actively misled the plaintiff respecting
the plaintiff's cause of action; (2) where the plaintiff
in some extraordinary way has been prevented from asserting
his or her rights; or (3) where the plaintiff has timely
asserted his or her rights mistakenly in the wrong
forum.'” Kramer v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 461 Fed.Appx. 167, 169 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam)
(quoting Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1387 (3d Cir. 1984)). A
“plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that
equitable tolling applies.” Courtney v. LaSalle
Univ., 124 F.3d 499, 505 (3d Cir. 1997).
civil action is untimely because the Complaint was filed
outside the sixty-day limitations period set forth in §
405(g). Plaintiff has not responded to the Commissioner's
Motion to Dismiss, nor has he otherwise provided the Court
with grounds that would justify invoking equitable tolling.
Therefore, the Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss the
Complaint as untimely is granted, and Plaintiff's
Complaint is dismissed.
noted above, on December 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's April 9,
2018 decision. (Mot. Dismiss, Decl. of Podraza, ECF No. 13-1,
at Ex. 2). The Appeals Council's letter was mailed to
Plaintiff's address at 2336 South Sixth Street,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19148. (Id.; see
also Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 2). Plaintiff was
presumed to receive the letter five days later, on December
18, 2018. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(c) (providing
the date of receipt of the “notice of decision by the
Appeals Council shall be presumed to be 5 days after the date
of such notice.”). Plaintiff had sixty days from that
date, or until February 18, 2019, to timely institute a civil
action. Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on
May 30, 2019, approximately one hundred days late. (Pl.'s
Compl., ECF No. 2). Therefore, his complaint is untimely.
did not respond to the Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss
and has not identified any circumstances that might justify
equitable tolling. Plaintiff thus has not satisfied his
burden of showing this doctrine applies. See
Courtney, 124 F.3d at 505; Schofield v. Saul,
No. 19-1600, 2019 WL 4077016, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 29, 2019)
(finding no equitable tolling where plaintiff did not respond
to Commissioner's motion to dismiss and granting
Commissioner's motion). Accordingly, as Plaintiff's
Complaint is untimely and he has not presented grounds to
warrant equitable tolling, the Commissioner's Motion is
granted. Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed. See,
e.g., White v. Colvin, 150 F.Supp.3d 361, 364
(D. Del. 2015) (granting Commissioner's motion to dismiss
plaintiff's one-day untimely complaint); Fenimore v.
Berryhill, No. 17-4722, 2018 WL 1942359, at *3 (E.D. Pa.
Apr. 24, 2018) (granting Commissioner's ...