United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
LORI A. RAPPOLD, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
RICHARD A. LLORET U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lori Rappold (hereafter Ms. Rappold or Plaintiff) appeals the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her request for benefits. Doc. No. 3. On June 13, 2018, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Ms. Rappold's claim
for benefits. R. 10-29. Ms. Rappold has failed to file an
appropriate brief and statement of issues in accordance with
the Procedural Order in this case. See ECF Doc. No.
7, Procedural Order. The Commissioner has moved to dismiss
the action for failure to prosecute.
3, 2019, Ms. Rappold initiated this action and filed a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. No. 1.
She also moved for appointment of counsel. Doc. No. 2. I
granted both her in forma pauperis motion and her
motion for counsel. Doc. Nos. 6, 7. The order granting
Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel instructed
the clerk to place the case on the extranet for selection by
a panel attorney. Doc. No. 7. On July 18, 2019, after
learning that two attorneys from the panel contacted Ms.
Rappold but she refused the services of both attorneys, I
entered an order removing the case from the Social Security
Panel, and directing Ms. Rappold to represent herself if she
wished to proceed with her case. The same order instructed
Ms. Rappold to file and serve a “Plaintiff's Brief
and Statement of Issues in Support of Request for
Review” within sixty (60) days of July 18, 2019. Doc.
No. 13. This meant she had until September 16, 2019 to file
her brief. On September 5, 2019, Ms. Rappold filed a document
which she named, “Plaintiff's Brief and Statement
of Issues in Support of Request for Review, ” but which
consisted of only a copy of the Standing Procedural Order for
Cases Seeking Social Security Review, and thirteen pages of
random medical records from various providers, including:
Abington Jefferson Health, Bergerhenry ENT Specialty Group,
Abington Health Lansdale Hospital, St. Luke's Physician
Group, and PIVA Medical Specialists. Doc. No. 14, pp. 1-14.
October 23, 2019, I filed an order specifically advising
Plaintiff that the document she had filed did not qualify as
a “brief, ” and giving Plaintiff additional time,
until November 4, 2019, to file a brief “addressing the
substance of her claim for relief, and explaining why this
matter should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute,
based on the factors identified in Poulis v. State Farm
Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984).
Instead, on November 4, 2019, Ms. Rappold filed a document
entitled “Its (sic) Brief in Support of Request for
Review, which consisted solely of a list of dates upon which
certain events occurred, such as her application for
benefits, its denial, her appeal and its denial. Doc. No. 16,
p. 1. “Newly provided information” consists
solely of the claim number on a denial of workers
compensation and “onset” dates for “medical
condition.” Id. “Allegations of
appeal” states “head” and “contusion,
” in numbered sections. Finally, the
“Argument” section consists of the numbers one
through four, apparently citing to a single record
page. The remainder of the
“argument” in its entirety states:
2. Epistaxis - R04.0 - severe 10/26/19
3. Chronic symptoms with ongoing intermittent pain: neck
pain, back pain.
4. Memory loss
Doc. No. 16, p. 2.
of Doc. No. 16 is a copy of a “notice of workers'
compensation denial, ” page 5 is a “report of
employee injury/occupational illness, ” and the sixth
and final page is a letter dated October 9, 2015 from AVI
Risk Services, LLC to Ms. Rappold denying reimbursement of a
Commissioner filed a motion to dismiss for failure to
prosecute on November 8, 2019. Doc. No. 17. For the reasons
discussed below, I agree with the Commissioner, and conclude
that Ms. Rappold'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
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