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Sanders v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 22, 2019

Coronda S. Sanders, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris U.S. Magistrate Judge.



         Plaintiff, Coronda Sanders, applied to the Social Security Administration for disability and disability insurance benefits on May 9, 2015. Her initial application was denied, and she opted to proceed with a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On February 27, 2018, ALJ Latanya White Richards determined that Ms. Sanders was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. That decision was affirmed by the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council on June 11, 2018. On August 2, 2018, Ms. Sanders brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), which provides federal courts with jurisdiction to review decisions denying claimants Social Security Disability benefits for lack of disability.

         Ms. Sanders' case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris for determination of non-dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) & (C). [Dkt. # 3]. Plaintiff filed her Motion for Summary Judgment [16] on February 7, 2019. Defendant filed his Motion for Summary Judgment [19] on March 15, 2019. On July 7, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R [22] recommending that Defendant's motion be granted, and Plaintiff's motion be denied. Plaintiff filed timely objections, to which Defendant has responded.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES the Objections [23] and ADOPTS the R&R [22]. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [16] is DENIED. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [19] is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         Ms. Sanders is a 45-year-old woman who alleges that she became disabled following a car accident on January 21, 2015. (Tr. 50-51). Following this accident, Ms. Sanders received surgical treatment for pubic, femoral, tibial, and fibulal fractures. (Tr. 52). As a result of these injuries, she developed arthrofibrosis and suffers from limited range of motion in her right knee. (Id.). Though she has undergone extensive physical therapy, Ms. Sanders still walks with a cane and suffers from pain throughout the day. (Tr. 52-53).

         The Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's recitation of Ms. Sanders' application reports and administrative hearing.

         i. Plaintiff's Function Report

Plaintiff competed an adult function report on June 2, 2016. (R.12 at PageID.196- 203.) In the report, Plaintiff indicated that she is able to care for her personal needs except that she needs help putting on her right shoe and socks, and she uses a commode because a regular toilet is too low. (R.12 at PageID.197.) She does not need any special reminders and is able to cook frozen meals and make sandwiches on a daily basis for between thirty minutes to one hour. (R.12 at PageID.198.) Although Plaintiff can wipe counters and sinks, she needs help taking the trash out, vacuuming, and dusting. (R.12 at PageID.198.) She does not do yard work because she “can't stand long enough.” (R.12 at PageID.199.) Plaintiff does not drive but is able to ride in a car, and she shops in stores for household items once a week for about one hour at a time. (R.12 at PageID.199.) Plaintiff does not need any help with finances. (Id.) Plaintiff indicated she does not have any hobbies and was unsure whether there have been any changes in such activities since her conditions began. (R.12 at PageID.200.) Plaintiff socializes by going to appointments, to the store, and to church. (Id.) Plaintiff indicated that she “stay[s] home more now due to my physical disability to get out and also due to the pain I suffer on a daily basis.” (R.12 at PageID.201.) Plaintiff has no difficulties paying attention or dealing with authority figures or co-workers. (R.12 at PageID.201-02.) Plaintiff summarized that the hardware in her right leg “prevents it from bending correctly at the knee, it lock[s] at a point and it will not move any farther. The pain I suffer from some days will not allow me to get out of bed. Sometimes for several hours until the pain clams down.” (R.12 at PageID.203.)

         ii. Plaintiff's Testimony at the Hearing

An administrative hearing was held in Plaintiff's case on September 27, 2017. (R.12 at PageID.60-86.) Plaintiff testified that she is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds. (R.12 at PageID.65.) Plaintiff has a driver's license and drove herself to the hearing; she also drives to her doctors' appointments and the store. (R.12 at PageID.66.) Plaintiff lives alone in an apartment and received workers compensation benefits until May of 2017. (R.12 at PageID.66-67, 73.) Plaintiff's alleged onset date (January 21, 2015) corresponds to the date she was involved in a car accident which resulted in a hospitalization and two months of rehabilitation. (R.12 at PageID.67-68.) Before her accident, Plaintiff worked as a group home manager, caring for the developmentally disabled. (R.12 at PageID.68.) Plaintiff suffered a broken pelvis, a degloving injury, and has “a lot of metal in [her] right leg, like, from the ankle to the hip, a lot of metal.” (R.12 at PageID.69.) Plaintiff followed up with physical therapy for some time and she currently takes pain medications. (R.12 at PageID.69-70.) Plaintiff indicated that she sometimes gets drowsy because of the medication. (R.12 at PageID.70-71.) Plaintiff is able to cook light meals and grocery shop but needs help from her family with vacuuming, laundry, and other cleaning. (R.12 at PageID.71-72.)
Plaintiff estimated that she could stand comfortably for about 15-20 minutes, sit comfortably for “at least 30 minutes, ” and walk for about half of a city block. (R.12 at PageID.73-75.) Plaintiff stated that she uses a cane “for distance” but “can move around the house without it.” (R.12 at PageID.75.) Plaintiff's hypertension is under control with medications and her CPAP machine has resolved her sleep apnea issues. (R.12 at PageID.75-76.)
Pursuant to her attorney's questions, Plaintiff testified that because of scar tissue in her knee, she cannot bend her knee beyond 60 degrees, making it very difficult to pick things off the floor. (R.12 at PageID.76-78.) Her pelvic pain is worsened by sitting too long so she lies down “between five and six times” for “20 to 30 minutes” per day to relieve the pain. (R.12 at PageID.78-79.) Plaintiff was prescribed and uses a shower chair. (R.12 at PageID.79.) Plaintiff sometimes misses church because she is very stiff, “like, paralyzed for a while” in the morning due to pain. (R.12 at ...

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