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Rappold v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 25, 2019

LORI A. RAPPOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD A. LLORET U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Ms. 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.[1] 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.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 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.[2] 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.

         On 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.[3] 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.

         Page 4 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 co-payment.

         The 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.

         DISCUSSION

         A 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.

         None of 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 ...


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