Messer v. Commissioner of Social Security, No. 20-5552 (6th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Attorney Conn represented Plaintiffs and thousands of others in seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Conn bribed doctors to certify false applications and bribed an ALJ to approve those applications. After Conn’s scheme was uncovered, SSA identified more than 1,700 approved applications that it believed might have been the product of fraud. SSA redetermined and denied Plaintiffs’ applications,
Several class actions challenged the SSA’s redetermination procedures. The Martin case was dismissed without a class having been certified because the named plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Hughes case was stayed before a class was certified. In the meantime, the Sixth Circuit held that the SSA’s redetermination procedures violated due process. Plaintiffs had 60 days to seek judicial review of the SSA’s decision, 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Each waited more than two years. As absent Hughes class members, they relied on the Supreme Court’s “American Pipe” doctrine under which filing a class action pauses the deadlines for members to file related individual actions. Once the district court remanded Hughes, plaintiffs filed their civil actions.
The district courts dismissed the suits as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. American Pipe tolling continues after a district court denies a motion for class certification solely as a matter of docket management, without deciding that certification is unwarranted. The outright dismissal of an uncertified class action ends American Pipe tolling and restarts class members’ statute-of-limitations clocks.