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Campbell v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

February 14, 2019

DAPHNIE CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DKT. NO. 25], GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 14], AND DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 23]

          IRENE M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On October 17, 2017, the plaintiff, Daphnie Campbell (“Campbell”), filed a complaint against the defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) (Dkt. No. 1), seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). After the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, Magistrate Judge Michael J. Aloi issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that the Court deny Campbell's motion and grant the Commissioner's motion, finding that the Commissioner's decision denying Campbell's applications was supported by substantial evidence (Dkt. No. 25). For the reasons that follow, the Court ADOPTS IN PART AND REJECTS IN PART the R&R (Dkt. No. 25), GRANTS Campbell's motion (Dkt. No. 14), and DENIES the Commissioner's motion (Dkt. No. 23).

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Campbell's Motion for Summary Judgment

         On April 2, 2018, Campbell filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Commissioner's final decision denying her applications for DIB and SSI is not supported by substantial evidence (Dkt. Nos. 14, 15). Campbell contends that (1) the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erroneously evaluated her subjective complaints, and (2) the decision was not sufficiently particularized to provide for meaningful review (Dkt. No. 15 at 4-6). Campbell also contends that the ALJ erroneously assessed her residual functional capacity (“RFC”) by failing to consider the combined effect of her alleged impairments, and by erroneously exercising an expertise in neurology. Id. at 6-9. Finally, Campbell asserts that the ALJ improperly discounted the opinion of Campbell's treating physician, Edward Thompson, M.D. Id. at 10-12.

         B. Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment

         The Commissioner's motion for summary judgment contends that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence (Dkt. Nos. 23, 24). In support, the Commissioner submits that the ALJ properly evaluated Campbell's subjective complaints against the medical evidence of record (Dkt. No. 24), and appropriately assessed Campbell's RFC by considering the effects of her physical and mental impairments and by discounting Dr. Thompson's opinion. Id. 8-9. The Commissioner did not respond to Campbell's argument that the ALJ exercised an expertise she did not possess. See generally id.

         C. Report and Recommendation

         In the R&R filed on January 7, 2019, Magistrate Judge Aloi concluded that the ALJ had properly weighed Campbell's subjective complaints against the medical evidence of record and appropriately accorded little weight to the statement of Dr. Thompson, Campbell's treating physician (Dkt. No. 25 at 29-39). He next concluded that it was harmless error for the ALJ to have exercised an expertise in neurology she did not possess. Id. at 39. Finally, he reasoned that the ALJ had properly weighed the medical evidence when determining whether Campbell's impairments were severe. Id. at 39-41.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When reviewing a magistrate judge's R&R, the Court must review de novo only the portions to which an objection is timely made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). On the other hand, “the Court may adopt, without explanation, any of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which the prisoner does not object.” Dellacirprete v. Gutierrez, 479 F.Supp.2d 600, 603-04 (N.D. W.Va. 2007) (citing Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983)). Courts will uphold those portions of a recommendation to which no objection has been made unless they are “clearly erroneous.” See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         III. APPLICABLE LAW

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court reviews all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Miller, 913 F.2d at 1087. The Court must avoid weighing the evidence or determining its truth and ...


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