United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. ATKINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Verna Mae Adams, brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to challenge Defendant
Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income. [R. 1]. This
matter has been referred to the undersigned to conduct all
proceedings and order the entry of a final judgment in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [R. 16; R. 17; R.
18]. The specific matters currently before this Court include
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, [R.
13], and Defendant's responsive Motion for Summary
Judgment, [R. 15]. Both matters are now ripe for decision,
and, for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings, [R. 13], shall be
DENIED, and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, [R. 15], shall be GRANTED.
BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed an application for supplemental social security income
due to disability on February 27, 2014. [R. 11-1 at 20]. Her
claim was denied for the first time on May 20, 2014.
[Id.]. Plaintiff's claim was denied for the
second time on July 8, 2014, following further administrative
review. [Id.]. Additional hearings were held on
September 18, 2015 and January 15, 2016. And, on February 24,
2016, Plaintiff's claim was denied for the third time.
[R. 11-1 at 17-28]. Plaintiff then filed an administrative
appeal; on April 12, 2017, however, the Appeals Counsel
declined review. [Id. at 2]. Plaintiff, having
exhausted her administrative remedies, then sought review
through an action in this Court, which she filed June 2,
2017. [R. 1].
has now moved for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), making arguments against only two of the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”)
determinations. [R. 13]. First, Plaintiff alleges that the
ALJ's determination of her residual functional capacity
as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1) was not
supported by substantial evidence, as the ALJ rejected the
opinion of her treating physician and failed to consider the
factors required under 20 C.F.R. § 416.927. [R. 13-1 at
8-14]. “This error is harmful because had the ALJ
appropriately weighed Dr. Breeding's opinion, the ALJ
would have found that Plaintiff is disabled.”
[Id. at 11]. Second, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ's
determination of her lack of credibility as to the amount of
work she is able to perform is not supported by substantial
evidence. [Id. at 14-15]. The ALJ “failed to
explain how he found the nature of her impairments credible,
but not the assertion she is unable to work.”
[Id. at 15].
to Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings,
Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). [R. 15]. Therein, Defendant emphasizes
the deferential nature of substantial evidence review of the
final action of an ALJ and state that the ALJ actually gave
sound reasons for rejecting the opinion of Plaintiff's
treating physician. [R. 15 at 4-10]. “The ALJ concluded
that Dr. Breeding's opinion was entitled to little weight
due to its inconsistency with the record, including Dr.
Breeding's own treatment notes.” [Id. at
6]. Similarly, Defendant argues that the ALJ correctly found
Plaintiff's statements as to her ability to work
incredible. [Id. at 11-12]. Further, that
“Plaintiff's specific criticisms are insufficient
to overcome the deference owed to the ALJ as finder of
fact.” [Id. at 12].
ON THE PLEADINGS AND SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS
action is now before this Court on the parties' cross
motions for summary judgment. [R. 13; R. 15]. Plaintiff
styled her motion as one for judgment on the pleadings. [R.
13]. Although “a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), if such a motion
relies on matters outside the pleadings, as the
Plaintiff's does, “the motion must be treated as
one for summary judgment under Rule 56, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which
summary judgment is sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Id. In making the determination as to
whether summary judgment is warranted, “a court must
view the evidence ‘in the light most favorable to the
opposing party.'” Tolan v. Cotton, 134
S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). “Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine
issue for trial.” Id. (quoting Matsushita
Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587 (1986)). In such a case, summary judgment is
warranted. Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330,
344 (2010); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). But there is “no express or
implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support
its motion with affidavits or other similar materials
negating the opponent's claim.”
Id. As such, in some cases, the moving party may be
“‘entitled to a judgment as a matter of law'
because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of her case with respect to
which she has the burden of proof.” Id.
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). Such a motion “therefore
requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and
by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). This
is so because “[o]ne of the principal purposes of the
summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually
unsupported claims or defenses.” Id. at
323-24. “[T]he existence of a mere scintilla of
evidence in support of the non-moving party's position
will not be sufficient; there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.”
Sutherland v. Mich. Dept. of Treasury, 344 F.3d 603,
613 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986)).
standard is not altered upon the submission of cross motions
for summary judgment. Upon encountering cross motions for
summary judgment, a district court is not required to grant
judgment for one side or the other. Sedona Corp. v. Open
Solutions, Inc., 646 F.Supp.2d 262 (D.Conn. 2009).
Rather, each motion is considered on its own merits, taking
care in each instance to draw the proper inferences against
the party whose motion is being considered. Id.;
see, e.g., Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575
(6th Cir. 2005); Farmer's and Miner's Bank v.
Terry Lee et al., 2017 WL 4707457 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 19,
2017) (No. 6:15-CV-64-HAI); Leonel Miranda Martinez v.
Steve Hiland et al., 2017 WL 4799861 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 24,
2017) (5:13-CV-P182-GNS) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a reviewing court “must
affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a
determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the
correct legal standard or has made findings of fact
unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.”
Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595
(6th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The scope of judicial
review is limited to the record itself, and the reviewing
court “may not try the case de novo, nor resolve
conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of
credibility.” Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328,
331 (6th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). The Sixth Circuit
has held that “substantial evidence exists when a
reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Warner v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir.
2004) (citations omitted). The limited nature of substantial
evidence review prevents the reviewing court from
substituting its judgment for that of the ALJ. Rather, so
long as substantial evidence exists, the reviewing court
should affirm the ALJ's decision “even if there is
substantial evidence in the record that would have supported
an opposite conclusion.” Longworth, 402 F.3d
at 595 (citations omitted). Substantial evidence is
“more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241
(6th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). “The substantial
evidence standard presupposes that there is a ‘zone of
choice' within which the ...