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Bar News - March 19, 2014


US District Court Decision Listing: February 2014

* Published

EMPLOYMENT (WRONGFUL DISCHARGE)
2/25/14
James Ferreira v. Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc.
Case No. 13-cv-425-PB, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 038

James Ferreira sued his former employer, Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc., for denying him benefits that he was allegedly entitled to under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Monadnock moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court granted the motion, holding that Ferreira had failed to allege sufficient facts to permit a reasonable inference that Ferreira was an eligible employee, that Monadnock was a covered employer, that Ferreira was entitled to FMLA benefits, and that Ferreira had given Monadnock sufficient notice of his intention to use his benefits. 9 pages. Judge Paul J. Barbadoro.


EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
2/7/14
Autumn O’Rourke v. Boyne Resorts d/b/a Loon Mountain Recreation Corporation
Case No. 12-cv-445-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 024

Plaintiff employee sued her former employer alleging pregnancy discrimination under Title VII and violation of several state laws. Defendant employer moved for summary judgment on all claims. The court found that no material factual dispute existed and employer was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff’s Title VII claims. The court dismissed the remaining state law claims without prejudice, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. 26 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


FORECLOSURE
2/11/14
Mary Hersey v. WPB Partners, LLC
Case No. 11-cv-207-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 029

Plaintiff landowner sued holder of promissory note alleging that loan was usurious under Massachusetts law. Defendant counterclaimed for breach of contract alleging that plaintiff defaulted on the note. Defendant moved for summary judgment on both claims. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on plaintiff’s claim, finding that defendant had an absolute defense to the charge of usury because it filed a timely and sufficient notice of its intent to charge interest rates in excess of the statutory cap with the state attorney general, as provided for in the Massachusetts statute. The court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on its counterclaim, finding that plaintiff’s failure to make payments on the loan was undisputed. 5 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


PROBATE LAW
2/12/14
UBS Financial Services, Inc. v. Glen Brescia and the Estate of Toni Ann Brescia
Case No. 13-cv-04-JL, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 031

A decedent’s estate and her ex-husband made competing claims to the decedent’s individual retirement accounts, which she had opened during her marriage to the ex-husband, naming him as their sole beneficiary. While the decedent never subsequently altered the designations, her estate claimed the accounts based on the decedent’s divorce stipulation with the ex-husband which, the estate argued, either manifested an intent to revoke those designations or should be reformed to provide for that result. Applying New Hampshire law, in particular Dubois v. Smith, 135 N.H. 50 (1991), and its progeny, the court ruled that the divorce stipulation contained no explicit waiver or relinquishment of the ex-husband’s beneficiary interest, and, lacking evidence that the parties intended such a provision but forgot to include it, the stipulation could not be reformed to that effect. The court therefore ruled that the ex-husband was entitled to the accounts. 9 pages. Judge Paul J. Barbadoro.


SOCIAL SECURITY
2/3/14
Marie Gaudette ex rel. DP v. Carolyn Colvin
Case No. 13-cv-08-JL, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 022

The plaintiff, acting on behalf of her minor daughter, appealed the decision of an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration that the daughter was not disabled and therefore not entitled to Supplemental Security Income. Affirming the ALJ’s decision, the court ruled that (1) assuming that the ALJ needed a medical opinion to support his finding that the daughter did not suffer from a listed impairment, the record contained such an opinion, in the form of the conclusions of state agency physicians that the daughter was not disabled, (2) the ALJ acted within his discretion in giving little weight to the opinion of a nurse practitioner who had treated the daughter that her lactose intolerance imposed an extreme limitation on her health or well-being, in favor of the opinion of a treating physician who deemed the daughter’s condition well-controlled. 13 pages. Chief Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


2/20/14
Alker v. Carolyn Colvin
Case No. 13-cv-221-JD, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 032

Steven Brian Alker appealed the denial of his application for social security disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, arguing that the ALJ improperly assessed Alker’s treating physicians’ opinions, which led to an incorrect finding that, if Alker stopped abusing alcohol and cocaine, he would not be disabled. In affirming the ALJ’s decision, the court ruled that the ALJ properly found that Alker was not disabled absent his substance abuse, as the opinion of the independent medical examiner, as well as the medical evidence as a whole, provided substantial evidence to support that conclusion. 28 pages. Judge Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr.


2/21/14
Kellie Allard v. Carolyn Colvin
Case No. 13-cv-82-JL, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 034

A claimant appealed the denial of her application for benefits by an Administrative Law Judge at the Social Security Administration. Affirming the ALJ’s decision, the court ruled that (1) the ALJ supportably found that the claimant’s medical records did not support her allegations that she was disabled by sleep problems, which the ALJ also supportably found not to be credible, (2) the ALJ acted within her discretion in giving little weight to the opinion of a nurse practitioner who had treated the claimant that she was disabled by sleep problems, and the similar opinion of a non-treating psychologist, where, among other deficiencies, those opinions were based largely on the very same claims of disabling sleep problems that the ALJ had found not to be credible, and (3) the ALJ supportably gave little weight to the SSA’s prior determination that the claimant was disabled (a determination that did not result in the award of benefits, because the SSA found that the claimant’s income disqualified her) when that determination preceded the onset date claimed in the application at issue, as well as the opinion of a state agency psychologist that the claimant was not disabled. 19 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


2/21/14
Coppola v. SSA
Case No. 12-cv-492-JL, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 033

On appeal from the Social Security Administration’s denial of the claimant’s application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, the court reversed the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The court held that the ALJ had erred by failing to discuss a treating source’s opinion that the claimant was disabled and unable to “do any form of work.” Although this opinion was on an issue reserved to the Commissioner of the SSA, the court held that the ALJ was still required to address the opinion in his written decision. The court rejected the claimant’s other assignments of error, reasoning, among other things, that the ALJ had committed harmless error in failing to (1) consider whether the claimant’s impairment met certain listings in the SSA’s regulations, and (2) comply with the letter of the SSA’s hearings manual. The court also concluded that the sporadic and seasonal nature of the claimant’s past jobs did not prevent those jobs from being considered “past relevant work” under the SSA regulations. 35 Pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


2/27/14
Cole v. Carolyn Colvin
Case No. 13-cv-83-JD, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 040

The plaintiff sought judicial review of the Acting Commissioner’s decision denying her application for social security benefits. The court concluded that the Acting Commissioner did not sustain her burden at Step Five of the evaluation process provided by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) and § 416.920(a) because the Administrative Law Judge made a series of errors in obtaining testimony from and evaluating the opinions of the vocational expert. The decision was reversed and the case was remanded for further administrative proceedings. 7 pages. Judge Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr.


2/10/14
Angelia M. Newell v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 12-cv-480-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 026

Claimant moved to reverse or vacate the Commissioner’s decision denying her application for supplemental security income benefits. Specifically, she claimed the ALJ erred by failing to recognize her hemiplegic migraines constitute a “severe impairment,” and by failing to properly consider the effect of her obesity on her ability to perform physical activities. The court disagreed, concluding the ALJ’s determination that claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Act was supported by substantial evidence in the record. 19 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/10/14
Susan Robar v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 12-cv-502-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 028

The court granted claimant’s motion to vacate the Commissioner’s decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits, concluding that the ALJ’s discussion of claimant’s Crohn’s disease and resulting chronic fatigue were insufficient, given the record evidence suggesting those impairments rendered her disabled. 13 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/10/14
David B. Howard v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 12-cv-497-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 027

Pro se claimant moved the court to vacate the Commissioner’s decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits. The court denied that motion, noting that claimant failed to identify any alleged errors made by the ALJ. Moreover, the Commissioner filed a lengthy and thorough memorandum addressing the ALJ’s findings at each of the five steps of the sequential analysis and explaining why each is supported by substantial evidence. 12 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/25/14
Karie Young, on behalf of her son, A.Y. v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 13-cv-24-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 035

Mother, on behalf of her minor son, moved to vacate the Commissioner’s denial of her son’s application for children’s supplemental security income benefits, asserting that the ALJ erred in concluding that her son’s asthma does not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal a listed impairment. The court disagreed, concluding that the ALJ’s factual findings at each of the three steps in the sequential analysis were supported by substantial evidence. 16 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/28/14
Debora A. Smallidge v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 13-cv-80-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 035

Claimant moved to vacate the Commissioner’s decision denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. She claimed the ALJ erred by improperly determining her residual functional capacity and by failing to give adequate weight to the opinions of a psychological consultant. The court denied that motion, concluding that the ALJ’s factual findings were supported by substantial evidence, as was his decision to discount the opinions of the psychological consultant. 20 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/26/14
Kristen L. McKinley v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 13-cv-47-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 036

Claimant moved to reverse the Commissioner’s decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. She argued, among other things, that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ’s decision because she improperly assessed the medical opinion evidence and claimant’s subjective complaints. The Commissioner moved to affirm her decision. The court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision, finding that the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. 22 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


2/26/14
Meagan M. White v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 12-cv-419-SM, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 037

Claimant moved to reverse the Commissioner’s decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. She argued, among other things, that the ALJ’s Residual Functional Capacity finding was not supported by substantial evidence because there was no credited expert medical opinion in the record to support the limitations included in the finding. The court agreed that the ALJ erred in that regard and remanded the matter for further proceedings. 12 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.

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