United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN
PART 9/1/2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. Cox United States District Judge.
Donna Vitale brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), challenging Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security's decision disallowing benefits. The parties
filed cross-motions for summary judgment (Doc. # 14 and 18),
which were referred to Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins
Davis for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”)
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On September 1,
2017, the magistrate judge issued an R&R (Doc. # 20)
wherein she recommended that Plaintiff's motion be
granted, Defendant's motion be denied, the findings of
the Commissioner be reversed, and that the matter be remanded
for further proceedings.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), a party objecting to the recommended
disposition of a matter by a magistrate judge must file
objections to the R&R within fourteen (14) days after
being served with a copy of the R&R. “The district
judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to.” Id. Defendant timely filed objections to
the R&R (Doc. # 21) and Plaintiff has responded (Doc. #
The Opinion of Dr. Petrilli
Commissioner's first three objections pertain to the
magistrate judge's determination that the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in its assessment of the
opinion of one of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr.
Anthony Petrilli. The magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ
failed to properly apply the analysis set forth in
Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365
(6th Cir. 2013), for deciding whether a treating
physician's opinion should be given controlling weight.
The magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ failed to provide
good reasons for discounting the weight of Dr. Petrilli's
opinion because she failed to discuss whether Dr.
Petrilli's opinion was well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and
failed to properly assess the opinion's inconsistency
with other substantial evidence. The magistrate judge opined
that the ALJ's decision failed to articulate what medical
evidence was relied upon for its decision to discount the
weight of Dr. Petrilli's opinion. The magistrate judge
also determined that these errors were not harmless.
Accordingly, the magistrate judge recommended reversing and
remanding for further proceedings.
“an opinion from a medical source who has examined a
claimant is given more weight than that from a source who has
not performed an examination . . .” Gayheart,
710 F.3d at 375; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1502; §
404.1527(c)(1). “Treating-source opinions must be given
‘controlling weight' if two conditions are met: (1)
the opinion ‘is well-supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques'; and (2)
the opinion ‘is not inconsistent with the other
substantial evidence in [the] case record.' ”
Id. at 376, quoting § 404.1527(c)(2).
Commissioner must provide “good reasons” for
discounting the weight given to a treating-source opinion.
Id., citing § 404.1527(c)(2). These reasons
must be “supported by the evidence in the case record,
and must be sufficiently specific to make clear to any
subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the
treating source's medical opinion and the reasons for
that weight.” Id., quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. No.
96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *5 (Soc. Sec. Admin. July 2, 1996).
This requirement permits meaningful review of the ALJ's
application of these procedural rules by ensuring that it
will be sufficiently clear to subsequent reviewers the weight
given to the treating source's medical opinion and the
reasons for that weight. Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).
case, the ALJ addressed Dr. Petrilli's opinion as
The opinions of Anthony Petrilli, MD, set forth in 18F, are
given little weight, as the medical evidence of record and
the claimant's activities of daily living do not support
the marked limitations (18F/102). Further, there is not
significant durational treatment of the claimant by Dr.
Petrilli, (18F/1-2 and 4-5). Also, Dr. Petrilli noted his
belief that the claimant is disabled (18F/3). However, this
is a matter reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security,
under Social Security Ruling 96-5p, so this statement is not
entitled to any weight. Finally, a portion of the opinion is
not signed by Dr. Petrilli (18F/4-5) and this also renders it
ALJ's Decision (Doc. # 10-2, p. 20).
the Court disagrees with the magistrate judge's report
and recommendation and concludes that the ALJ met its
obligation to provide good reasons for giving less weight to
Dr. Petrilli's opinion. To be given controlling weight, a
treating source opinion must be “well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques” and not be “inconsistent
with other substantial evidence in [the] case record.”
Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 376. The Court agrees with the
magistrate judge that the ALJ failed to identify how Dr.
Petrilli's opinion was not well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. But
this omission is not fatal to the ALJ's analysis. For Dr.
Petrilli's opinion to be entitled to controlling weight,
both prongs enumerated in Gayheart had to be met.
ALJ's decision stated that “the medical evidence of
record and Plaintiff's activities of daily living do not
support marked limitations.” (Doc. # 10-2, p. 20).
Although the ALJ did not expressly discuss this evidence in
the portion of its decision declining to give Dr.
Petrilli's opinion controlling weight, this is not an
instance where the Court cannot determine what evidence the
ALJ relied upon to substantiate her conclusion. See
Dickey-Williams v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 975
F.Supp.2d 792, 804 (E.D. Mich. 2013). The ALJ's
assessment of Dr. Petrilli's opinion, read together with
the ALJ's decision as a whole, see Athey v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2014 WL 4537317 at *4 (E.D.
Mich. 2014); Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 370 n.
5 (7th Cir. 2004) (“[I]t is proper to read the
ALJ's decision as a whole . . .”), is sufficiently
specific to indicate the ALJ's good reasons for
determining that Dr. Petrilli's opinion was inconsistent
with the other ...