United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
W. TRUMBLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case arises from Plaintiff William Kirby Lewis's
(“Plaintiff”) second Title II application for
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). After Plaintiff's second application
proceeded through the administrative process, a United States
Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”) concluded
that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. Although Plaintiff seeks judicial review
of the ALJ's decision, Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill
(“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”)
moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, arguing that this
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to review a dismissal
for administrative res judicata. Because the Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the undersigned recommends that
Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted and
Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed with prejudice.
15, 2012, Plaintiff filed his first Title II claim for DIB,
alleging that his disability began on October 15, 2011.
Declaration of Marie Counsins, ECF No. 9-1 at 3.
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on April 23, 2013,
and there is no evidence to suggest that this decision was
years later, on May 21, 2014 Plaintiff filed a second Title
II application for DIB, alleging that his disability began on
January 15, 2012, which was later amended to August 3, 2012.
Id. This application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. Id. After these denials, Plaintiff
filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ.
Id. After the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision
concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. Id.
Plaintiff filed a request for review, the Appeals Council
sent a Notice of Appeals Council Action informing Plaintiff
that it found no reason to reopen the final decision on
Plaintiff's first application for DIB, which was issued
on April 23, 2013. Id. at 4. In addition, the notice
informed Plaintiff that the doctrine of res judicata applied
to his second application for DIB because the evidence he
submitted was “duplicative, cumulative, or did not
relate to the period at issue.” Id. Because it
found that res judicata applied, it informed Plaintiff that
it planned to vacate the ALJ's decision and dismiss his
request for a hearing. Id. On October 27, 2017, the
Appeals Council issued a Notice of Order doing just that: It
vacated the ALJ's order and dismissed Plaintiff's
request for a hearing based on res judicata. Id.
October 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2015). Compl., ECF
No. 1. On February 5, 2018, Defendant filed her Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss
Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 8. Plaintiff filed his response on
February 19, 2018, Mem. in Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No.
and Defendant filed her reply seven days later, Def.'s
Reply to Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss
Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 12.
matter is now before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a Report and Recommendation to the District Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule of
Civil Procedure 9.02(a). Having reviewed the parties'
motions, the undersigned now issues the following Report and
courts of limited jurisdiction, it is well established that
federal courts must have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear
and decide a case on the merits. See Erwin
Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction 285 (7th ed.
2016). Federal courts possess “only the jurisdiction
authorized them by the United States Constitution and by
federal statute.” United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v.
Jadhav, 555 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009). Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to
dismiss a case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
“In such cases, the plaintiff has the burden of
establishing a factual basis for jurisdiction.”
Johnson v. W.Va. Div. of Rehab. Servs., No.
3:16-9308, 2017 WL 1395501, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. Apr. 17, 2017)
(citing Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555,
561 (1992); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R.
Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir.
Contentions of the Parties
motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that this Court does not
have jurisdiction to review dismissals based on
administrative res judicata. See generally Br. in
Supp. of the Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss. ECF No 9. In
response, Plaintiff argues that the Appeals Council erred by
vacating the ALJ's decision and denying his request for
review based on re judicata because the ALJ's decision
was a de facto reopening of Plaintiff's first application
for DIB, and, therefore, the doctrine of res judicata does
not apply. ECF No. 11 at 2-4. In reply, Defendant insists