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Cox v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

November 29, 2018

JUDY COX, on behalf of Darrell Clay Cox PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection, and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         DISPOSITION

         INTRODUCTION. The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) has filed the pending motion for summary judgment. See Docket Entry 8.[1] For the reason that follows, the undersigned recommends that the motion be granted and this case be dismissed without prejudice.

         PLEADINGS. The record reflects that plaintiff Judy Cox (“Cox”), on behalf of Darrell Clay Cox, began the case at bar by filing a pro se complaint. In the complaint, Cox sought the supplemental security income payments allegedly owed her deceased son, Darrell Clay Cox, or, alternatively, the living expenses she incurred on his behalf prior to his death.

         The Commissioner thereafter filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), and (6), a motion the undersigned subsequently construed as one for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Docket Entry 10.[2] In the motion, the Commissioner maintained that the federal courts lack jurisdiction because Cox is “not an acceptable substitute party for [Darrell Clay Cox's] claim for [supplemental security income payments]” and there is no evidence that “the State was a potential party of interest for having provided interim assistance.” See Docket Entry 9 at CM/ECF 2.

         Cox filed a response to the motion to dismiss. In the response, she clarified that she was not seeking the supplemental security income payments allegedly owed her son but was instead seeking reimbursement for living expenses. She maintained that she incurred the expenses because she was required to care for him as he suffered from severe impairments and was unable to work.

         FACTS.

         The Commissioner accompanied her motion with several documents, one of which is the Declaration of Cristina Prelle (“Prelle”). The facts outlined in Prelle's declaration are unrebutted, supported by the record as a whole, and establish that the material facts are not in dispute. Those facts, as well as facts derived from the record as a whole, are as follows:

         1. On February 29, 2016, Darrell Clay Cox filed an application for supplemental security income payments in which he alleged that he had become disabled beginning on December 1, 2011. See Docket Entry 9, Exhibit A at CM/ECF 13.

         2. On February 16, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that although Darrell Clay Cox, a fifty-year-old man, suffered from severe impairments in the form of bilateral leg swelling, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Cox was not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act at any time since the date of his application. See Docket Entry 9, Exhibit A at CM/ECF 13-23.

         3. Darrell Clay Cox died on February 21, 2018. See Docket Entry 9, Declaration of Cristina Prelle at CM/ECF 3.

         4. On March 16, 2018, the Social Security Administration received a letter from Cox, Darrell Clay Cox's mother, appealing the ALJ's unfavorable decision. See Docket Entry 9, Declaration of Cristina Prelle at CM/ECF 3.

         5. In the letter, Cox represented that she was required to watch her son twenty-four hours a day, described the many difficulties and problems she encountered doing so, and asked that she be awarded his ...


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