796 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1986), 85-1863, Crosby v. Social Sec. Admin. of United States

Docket Nº:85-1863.
Citation:796 F.2d 576
Party Name:Carol A. CROSBY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OF the UNITED STATES, et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:July 22, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 576

796 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1986)

Carol A. CROSBY, individually and on behalf of all others

similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OF the UNITED STATES, et al.,

Defendants, Appellees.

No. 85-1863.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 22, 1986

Argued June 2, 1986.

Page 577

Jonathan S. Berck with whom Paul R. Collier, III, Boston, Mass., Lisa R. Sockett, Veronica M. Dougherty and Vilna M. Waldron, Harvard Legal Bureau, were on brief, for plaintiffs, appellants.

John S. Koppel, Appellate Staff, Civil Div., Dept. of Justice, with whom Richard K. Willard, Asst. Atty. Gen., Washington, D.C., William F. Weld, U.S. Atty., Boston, Mass., and John F. Cordes, Appellate Staff, Civil Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for defendants, appellees.

Page 578

Before COFFIN, Circuit Judge, BROWN, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and BOWNES, Circuit Judge.

COFFIN, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-appellants appeal from a judgment of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissing their class action claim in light of Heckler v. Day, 467 U.S. 104, 104 S.Ct. 2249, 81 L.Ed.2d 88 (1984). We agree that Day precludes class-wide relief in this case and thus affirm.

Plaintiffs-appellants filed their class action claim in 1981, claiming that unreasonable delays by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in issuing decisions on claims for Social Security disability benefits violated their rights under the Social Security Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment. The District Court for the District of Massachusetts found that average delays of up to seven months violated the class members' right to "reasonable notice and opportunity for a hearing" as required by the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(b) and 1383(c)(1). The court awarded summary judgment to the plaintiff class and ordered that all hearings be held and claims adjudicated within 180 days of a claimant's hearing request. Crosby v. Social Security Administration, 550 F.Supp. 1278 (D.Mass.1982).

On appeal, 767 F.2d 904, we vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case in light of the intervening Supreme Court opinion in Heckler v. Day, 467 U.S. 104, 104 S.Ct. 2249, 81 L.Ed.2d 88 (1984). In Day, the Court invalidated a class-wide injunction that imposed mandatory time limits for reconsideration decisions of disability denials and for hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). 1 The Court held that because Congress had determined that mandatory time deadlines would be inappropriate for adjudicating disability claims, "it would be an unwarranted judicial intrusion into this pervasively regulated area for federal courts to issue injunctions imposing deadlines with respect to future disability claims". Day, 467 U.S. at 119, 104 S.Ct. at 2258.

On remand, the district court dismissed the claims of the plaintiff class on the ground that Day precluded the relief sought. At the time, plaintiffs had not yet argued for any relief different from that granted in the original injunction. We vacated and remanded, on the ground that plaintiffs might be able to devise a recertified class and alternative relief measures that could pass muster under Day and that the district court should pass on such alternative relief and class composition first "in light of Day, the history and procedural posture of the case, and such other law as may be appropriate". We then stated that the court may "reconsider the motion to dismiss if still appropriate".

On remand, the plaintiffs moved to recertify the class as all present and future claimants for disability benefits "who have not had a hearing held within a reasonable time and/or who have not had a decision rendered in such a hearing for benefits within a reasonable time from the date of Request of Hearing" (emphasis in original). 2 The new relief requested included a

Page 579

declaration that defendants have "violated the rights of class members to reasonably timely hearings and decisions in Social Security disability appeals as required by the Social Security Act", an injunction ordering defendants to "provide notice to class members of their rights", and an injunction ordering defendants "to provide periodic reports to the Court and counsel for the Plaintiff Class on the status of the delay situation in Massachusetts".

The plaintiffs proposed two notices that would inform class members of their rights. The first notice would be sent immediately after a claimant requested a hearing before an ALJ, as part of the usual acknowledgement form that the SSA mails to every claimant who requests a hearing. That notice would advise claimants that long delays in hearings and adjudications are unreasonable absent justification, and that they should contact counsel for the plaintiff class or other counsel if they desire further assistance. The second notice would be sent to claimants 120 days after their request for a hearing, and would contain a statement by the SSA as to why the hearing had not been held. This notice would be designed to alert the claimant that delay in his or her individual case may be unlawful.

The district court rejected the plaintiffs' alternative class definition and relief requests, finding that they did not escape the proscription of Day. The court pointed out that plaintiffs' "pleadings simply substitute the standard of 'within a reasonable time' for a definitely established period of time for the class" and that "[s]uch a class would be impossible to identify". The court dismissed the case without prejudice to former members of the class to present individual claims, and directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide written notice to members of the class of the provisions of the court's order. In addition, in response to the court's suggestion, the Secretary agreed to provide the identities of delayed applicants to plaintiffs' counsel to facilitate the institution of appropriate individual suits.

We sympathize, as did the district court, with the plight of plaintiffs in this case; nevertheless, we agree with that court that the only appropriate action at this juncture is to dismiss the class action suit. In Heckler v. Day, the Supreme Court did more than merely abolish judicially imposed mandatory time limits. The underlying rationale of the Court was that Congress had disapproved of mandatory time limits because such limits failed to take into account the differences in the facts and circumstances of each individual case. As a basis for its understanding, the Court quoted a report from the House Ways and Means Committee: "[The] Committee believes that a disability claimant is entitled to a timely hearing and a decision on his appeal, but it also recognizes that the time needed before a well-reasoned and sound disability hearing decision can be made may vary widely on a case-by-case basis.... Establishing strict time limits for the adjudication of every case could result in incorrect determinations because time was not available to ... reach well-reasoned decisions in difficult cases." Day, 467 U.S. at 115, 104 S.Ct. at 2256 (quoting H.R.Rep. No. 97-588, at 19-20 (1982)).

Under this analysis, a delay of any particular period of time may be quite reasonable in one case and extremely unreasonable in another. Thus, the Court refused to find that the statutory right to be granted a hearing within a reasonable time-frame could be effectuated through the use of across-the-board time limits, and rather emphasized that injunctive relief could properly be used only "to remedy individual violations of 405(b)". Day, 467 U.S. at 119 & n. 32, 104 S.Ct. at 2258 & n. 32 (emphasis in the original).

Given the dictates of Day, we see no way for plaintiffs to maintain their class action....

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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Southern District of Ohio
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    ...a particular way, and (2) facilitating a court's ability to ascertain its membership in some objective manner. Crosby v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576, 580 (1st Cir.1986) (holding that a class could not be certified because the definition " ma[de] class members impossible to identify ......
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    ...criteria prior to litigation." Hannaford's Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Class Certification at 34 (citing Crosby v. Social Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1986)). In Crosby, the First Circuit rejected a class defined as " all claimants who have not had a hearing or decision on thei......
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    ...criteria.” Id. (citing Marcus v. BMW of N. Am., LLC, 687 F.3d 583, 593 (3d Cir. 2012); Crosby v. Soc. Sec. Admin. of U.S., 796 F.2d 576, 579-80 (1st Cir. 1986)). Specifically, although “plaintiffs need not be able to identify every class member at the time of certif......
  • 196 F.R.D. 487 (S.D.Ohio 2000), C2-99-1343, Edwards v. McCormick
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Southern District of Ohio
    • 31 Octubre 2000
    ...way; and (2) defining the class such that a court can ascertain its membership in some objective manner. Crosby v. Social Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576, 580 (1st Cir.1986) (holding that a class could not be certified because the definition " ma[de] class members impossible to identify prio......
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89 cases
  • 203 F.R.D. 315 (S.D.Ohio 2001), C2: 00-CV-00774, Reeb v. Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Southern District of Ohio
    • 25 Octubre 2001
    ...a particular way, and (2) facilitating a court's ability to ascertain its membership in some objective manner. Crosby v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576, 580 (1st Cir.1986) (holding that a class could not be certified because the definition " ma[de] class members impossible to identify ......
  • 293 F.R.D. 21 (D.Me. 2013), 2:08-MD-1954-DBH, In re Hannaford Bros. Co. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Maine
    • 20 Marzo 2013
    ...criteria prior to litigation." Hannaford's Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Class Certification at 34 (citing Crosby v. Social Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1986)). In Crosby, the First Circuit rejected a class defined as " all claimants who have not had a hearing or decision on thei......
  • J.O.P. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 122120 MDDC, GJH-19-1944
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit District of Maryland
    • 21 Diciembre 2020
    ...criteria.” Id. (citing Marcus v. BMW of N. Am., LLC, 687 F.3d 583, 593 (3d Cir. 2012); Crosby v. Soc. Sec. Admin. of U.S., 796 F.2d 576, 579-80 (1st Cir. 1986)). Specifically, although “plaintiffs need not be able to identify every class member at the time of certif......
  • 196 F.R.D. 487 (S.D.Ohio 2000), C2-99-1343, Edwards v. McCormick
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Southern District of Ohio
    • 31 Octubre 2000
    ...way; and (2) defining the class such that a court can ascertain its membership in some objective manner. Crosby v. Social Sec. Admin., 796 F.2d 576, 580 (1st Cir.1986) (holding that a class could not be certified because the definition " ma[de] class members impossible to identify prio......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Putting Ascertainability into Rule 23
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
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    ...and litigation . . . fails to satisfy one of the basic requirements for a class action,” Crosby v. Social Security Administration, 796 F.2d 576, 580 (1st Cir. 1986). More recently the court held that “objective criteria” are necessary to “overcome[] the claim that the class in unascertainab......