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Gibbons v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of Oregon

March 2, 2015

TODD ROY GIBBONS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Todd Roy Gibbons, Plaintiff pro se.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon, John C. Lamont, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

Michael H. Simon United States District Judge

Todd Roy Gibbons brings a number of claims against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”). The Commissioner moves to dismiss Gibbons’s amended complaint for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons below, the Commissioner’s motion is granted.

STANDARDS

A. Failure to State a Claim

A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim when it contains is no cognizable legal theory or insufficient factual allegations to support a claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint’s factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat’l Educ. Ass’n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). But to be entitled to a presumption of truth, the complaint must do more than simply allege legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The plaintiff “may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must [provide] sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Furthermore, the underlying factual allegations must “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Baca, 652 F.3d at 1216 (emphasis added). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

B. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction” and there is a presumption “that a cause [of action] lies outside this limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). In a social security case, subject-matter jurisdiction is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which limits judicial review to a “final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing.” § 405(g); see Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108 (1977); Hoye v. Sullivan, 985 F.2d 990, 991 (9th Cir. 1993).

C. Pro Se Plaintiffs

Pro se plaintiffs do receive some special dispensation. A court must liberally construe the filings of a pro se plaintiff and afford the plaintiff the benefit of any reasonable doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). “A pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.” Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep’t, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). But even a pro se plaintiff must offer more than “‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

BACKGROUND

Todd Roy Gibbons was last insured for purposes of social security disability insurance benefits on December 31, 2008. In January 2009, with the assistance of counsel, Gibbons filed concurrent Title II and Title XVI applications for disability benefits. In December 2010, an ALJ issued a final decision finding Gibbons not disabled through the date of the decision. The Appeals Council declined to review his case on February 2, 2012, starting the 60-day period to file for judicial review in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Gibbons never sought review of that decision.

In May 2013, no longer represented by counsel, Gibbons again filed concurrent Title II and Title XVI applications for disability benefits. This time, he alleged that he became disabled on January 2, 2009-after his date last insured. Accordingly, his Title II claim was immediately denied. But because eligibility for Title XVI benefits does ...


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