United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western District
December 4, 2014
KAYUNDRA NORRIS HUNT, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.
The following recommended disposition was prepared for Chief United States District Judge Brian S. Miller. A party to this dispute may object to this recommendation in writing. An objection must be specific and state the factual and/or legal basis for the objection. An objection to a factual finding must identify the finding and the evidence supporting the objection. Objections must be filed with the Clerk of the Court no later than 14 days from the date of this recommendation. The objecting party must serve the opposing party with a copy of an objection. Failing to object within 14 days waives the right to appeal questions of fact. If no objections are filed, Judge Miller may adopt the recommended disposition without independently reviewing the record evidence. An objecting party who seeks to submit new, different, or additional evidence, or to obtain a hearing for that purpose, must address the following matters as part of written objections: (1) why the record before the magistrate judge was inadequate, (2) why the evidence was not presented to the magistrate judge, and (3) details and/or copies of any testimony and/or documents to be proffered at a hearing. Based on this submission, Judge Miller will determine the need for a hearing.
This report recommends dismissing this case for failing to prosecute and failing to comply with court orders. Plaintiff Kayundra Hunt filed this case on March 19, 2014, and asked for judicial review of the denial of her second application for social security disability benefits. After the Commissioner answered, the Court directed Ms. Hunt to file a brief by July 8, 2014, to identify her allegations of error.
Instead of filing a brief, Ms. Hunt asked the Court to appoint an attorney. Ms. Hunt identified no effort to obtain an attorney, other than stating that the attorney who represented her during her administrative proceeding was unable to help her. The Court considered the applicable factors and denied the request.
At that point, Ms. Hunt ceased communicating, so the Court directed Ms. Hunt to file a brief by November 10, 2014. The Order cautioned Ms. Hunt that her case would be dismissed if she failed to file a brief. Ms. Hunt did not file a brief.
Under Local Rule 5.5, a pro se plaintiff like Ms. Hunt must diligently prosecute her case. The rule provides for case dismissal if the plaintiff fails to respond to a court order. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) permits the court to dismiss a case for failing to prosecute; the rule also permits the court to dismiss a case for failing to comply with a court order. Dismissal is appropriate under both rules, because Ms. Hunt has not prosecuted her case and has twice failed to comply with Orders directing her to file a brief.
Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, the Court has reviewed the Commissioner's decision and the agency record to determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision and whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards. As explained below, substantial evidence supports the decision; the Commissioner made no legal error.
Ms. Hunt claims disability beginning May 25, 2011. She bases disability on numerous complaints. She alleges disabling pain and limitation in all exertional and nonexertional functions: lifting, standing, walking, sitting, stair climbing, kneeling, squatting, reaching, using hands, seeing, hearing, talking, bending, memory, concentration, completing tasks, understanding, following instructions, and getting along with others. In contrast, the medical evidence shows little impairment.
During the time period for which benefits were denied,  Ms. Hunt sought little medical treatment. In May 2011, when she claims she became disabled, she was receiving out-patient mental health treatment for bipolar disorder and substance abuse. She was accepted for in-patient treatment, but in June 2011, she was discharged for positive drug screens. In December 2011, she was treated for bronchitis. In May and June 2014, she saw a primary care physician and complained about numerous medical and mental health problems. In May 2013, she sought treatment for hip pain. This treatment history implicates no disabling pain or limitation.
In her Complaint, Ms. Hunt attributed her treatment history to a lack of medical insurance. Lack of financial resources, like medical insurance, can sometimes explain the lack of treatment, but not here, because there is no indication Ms. Hunt sought low-cost or no-cost medical care, or has been denied care. If Ms. Hunt's pain was as severe as she claims, she would need regular medical treatment. The lack of treatment contradicts her claims of disabling pain and limitation.
A reasonable mind would accept the evidence as adequate to support the Commissioner's decision because there is little evidence of impairment, and because Ms. Hunt has sought little medical treatment. The decision reflects no legal error. The district judge can dismiss this case, knowing the Commissioner's decision is proper.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Ms. Hunt failed to prosecute her case and failed to comply with Orders directing her to file a brief. For these reasons, the Court recommends dismissing this case, without prejudice, under Local Rule 5.5 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Ms. Hunt may still file a brief if she does so within the fourteen-day time period for objecting to this recommended disposition.