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Putman v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

January 23, 2017

LAURA PUTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S RULE 59(e) MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) Motion to Alter or Amend the Court's Order affirming the final decision of Defendant denying benefits. ECF No. 29. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Having carefully considered the motion, the response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         United States Magistrate Judge Kevin McDonald issued a Report and Recommendation (Report) suggesting the final decision of Defendant denying benefits be affirmed. ECF No. 20. Plaintiff timely filed her objections, and this Court entered an Order overruling Plaintiff's objections, adopting the Report, and affirming the final decision of Defendant. ECF No. 26.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed her motion under Rule 59(e) to alter or amend the Court's Order affirming Defendant's decision. ECF No. 29. Defendant filed her response in opposition, ECF No. 30, and Plaintiff filed her reply, ECF No. 31. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of the motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         There are only three limited bases for a district court to grant a Rule 59(e) motion: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir.1993). A Rule 59(e) motion “may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 486 n.5 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). Further, “mere disagreement [with a district court's ruling] does not support a Rule 59(e) motion.” Hutchinson, 994 F.2d at 1082. “In general[, ] reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.” Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir.1998) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         In Plaintiff's motion, she appears to request the Court alter or amend its Order affirming the final decision of Defendant under Rule 59(e)'s third basis: namely, the Court correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. Plaintiff insists the Court ignored purportedly binding precedent in upholding the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)'s decision to discount the medical opinion of Dr. Mario Galvarino, one of Plaintiff's treating physicians, and to give greater weight to the opinions of non-examining physicians. Plaintiff also asserts the Court erred by failing to hold the ALJ discounted Dr. Galvarino's opinion based on a mischaracterization of Plaintiff's daily activities. Further, Plaintiff contends the Court neglected to address her argument that intermittent conditions can be disabling, and Plaintiff states the Court utilized the wrong harmless error test in evaluating whether the ALJ's use of stability to prove ability to function was inappropriate. Finally, Plaintiff urges she suffered prejudice from the ALJ's speculation Dr. Galvarino based his opinion on sympathy for Plaintiff.

         Defendant disputes these assertions.

         V. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         As an initial matter, the Court notes Plaintiff raised each of her contentions above in substantially the same format during her initial briefing and then in her objections to the Report. Her motion thus appears to be an impermissible attempt to “relitigate old matters” under Rule 59(e). See Exxon Shipping Co., 554 U.S. at 486 n.5 (internal quotation marks omitted). Out of an abundance of caution, however, the Court will address the merits of Plaintiff's motion.

         Plaintiff's contentions largely concern the weight the ALJ assigned to the opinion of Dr. Galvarino, one of ...


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