U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit Opinions (8/17/2021)

19 Aug 2021 10:46 AM | Kathi McKeown

Messer v. Commissioner of Social Security

Dockets: 20-5552, 20-5550, 20-5551 

Opinion Date: August 16, 2021

Judge: Richard Allen Griffin 

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Class Action

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.

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Ward v. National Patient Account Services Solutions, Inc.

Docket: 20-5902 

Opinion Date: August 16, 2021

Judge: R[ansey] Guy Cole, Jr. 

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Consumer Law

Ward received twice medical treatment at Stonecrest. Stonecrest hired NPAS, Inc. to collect Ward’s outstanding balances. NPAS first sent Ward a billing statement on October 3 related to his July hospital visit. The statement provided NPAS's full name and address at the top of the first page; the reverse side explained who it was. NPAS called Ward on October 24 and left a voice message: We are calling from NPAS on behalf of Stonecrest … Please return our call. On November 17, NPAS, sent a second billing statement. On December 27, NPAS left a second, identical, voice message. NPAS then returned his account to Stonecrest. Ward’s second account regarding his October hospital visit followed a similar process. On December 28, after retaining counsel, Ward sent a cease-and-desist letter to “NPAS Solutions, LLC,” an entity unrelated to NPAS, Inc. Ward stated at his deposition that NPAS, Inc.’s voice messages caused him to become confused as to which entity had called him. Ward filed suit under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11) alleging NPAS failed, in its voice messages, to identify itself as a debt collector and failed to identify the “true name” of its business. The Sixth Circuit held that the case should be dismissed because Ward lacks Article III standing. Ward does not automatically have standing simply because Congress authorizes a plaintiff to sue for failing to comply with the Act. The procedural injuries Ward asserts do not bear a close relationship to traditional harms.

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