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Grier v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 31, 2019

OLIVER CLINTON GRIER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sherry R. Fallon, Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Oliver Grier ("Grier") filed this action on March 12, 2018 against the defendant Andrew Saul, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"). Grier sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Commissioner's January 16, 2018 final decision, denying Grier's claim for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 and §§ 1381-1383f. On July 3, 2019, this court issued a Memorandum Opinion granting the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and denying Grier's motion for summary judgment, affirming the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision. (D.I. 19; D.I. 20) The court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[2]

         Presently before the court is Grier's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).[3] (D.I. 22) For the reasons set forth below, Grier's motion to alter or amend judgment is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         a. Procedural History

         Grier filed a SSI application on September 27, 2013, [4] claiming a disability onset date of August 27, 2013. (D.I. 9-2 at 21; D.I. 9-6 at 2) His claim was initially denied on January 7, 2014, and denied again after reconsideration on August 14, 2014.[5] (D.I. 9-4 at 2-6, 10-14) Grier then filed a request for a hearing, which occurred on September 12, 2016. (D.I. 9-2 at 37-67) Administrative Law Judge Jack Penca issued an unfavorable decision, finding that Grier was not disabled under the Act on October 11, 2016. (Id. at 21-31) The Appeals Council subsequently denied Grier's request for review on January 16, 2018, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 2-5)

         On March 12, 2018, Grier brought a civil action in this court challenging the ALJ's decision. (D.I. 1) On September 4, 2018, Grier filed a motion for summary judgment, and on November 15, 2018, the Commissioner filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 12; D.I. 16) On July 3, 2019, the court denied Grier's motion for summary judgment and granted the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment in a Memorandum Opinion. (D.I. 19; D.I. 20) The court entered judgment in favor of the Commissioner on July 8, 2019. (D.I. 21) On July 24, 2019, Grier filed the present motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). (D.I. 22)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) is '"a device to relitigate the original issue' decided by the district court, and [it is] used to allege legal error." U.S. v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). In order to prevail on a Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motion, the moving party must show: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or, (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. See Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration is not a mechanism to reargue issues that the court has already considered and decided. See Brambles USA, Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp. 1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990). The decision to grant relief under Rule 59(e) lies squarely within the discretion of the district court. See Flash Seats, LLC v. Paciolan, Inc., C.A. No. 07-575-LPS, 2011 WL 4501320, at *2 (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2011) (citing Dentsply Int'l, Inc. v. Ken Mfg. Co., 42 F.Supp.2d 385, 419 (D. Del. 1999)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Grier argues that the court erred in concluding that the ALJ acknowledged and discussed plaintiffs functioning within the context of a supportive environment[6] when performing the residual functional capacity ("RFC") analysis.[7] (D.I. 22 at 1-2) Grier asserts that, in its Memorandum Opinion, the court cited to a portion of the ALJ's opinion that discussed step three of the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled. (Id., at 2) In doing so, Grier contends, the court analyzed the ALJ's analysis of the severity of his impairments, rather than the ALJ's analysis of his RFC. (Id.) Furthermore, Grier argues that the court erred as a matter of law because the ALJ failed to provide any analysis as to Grier's need for a structured living environment pursuant to SSR 96-8p. (Id., at 3) Grier asserts that the question that the ALJ failed to analyze was not whether he was completely unable to function without support, but whether he needed any support in order to perform full-time, competitive work. (Id., at 4)

         The court did not err as a matter of law in concluding that the ALJ had considered Grier's need for a structured living environment when assessing his RFC. In addition to providing the analysis in step three of the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ also noted:

The record shows the claimant is not as limited as he claims. The claimant testified nothing helps his mental health symptoms, but recent treatment records note medications are very helpful. The claimant also testified he spends the day at home and rarely leaves the house. However, in the record he is described as "very active" and reports he has been swimming and doing yard work. He eventually admits being able to go to his grandparents' home, 7-11, Shoprite, and the Dollar Store. He also hangs out with his cousin at his house. Further, the record indicates the claimant's symptoms have remained stable when he is compliant with medication and treatment. The only instances of inpatient treatment during the ...

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