Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Using SSDI determination as evidence of extent of PI Plaintiff's injury

I am defending a PI case in which the plaintiff claims to be flharfh05/18/17
Not really- the SSA's definition of "disability" for purpose bakertaylor05/30/17
I don't know your state's laws about expert testimony but my karlfarbman05/18/17
Experts can rely on info that is otherwise inadmissible. Run midlaw05/18/17
Remember the doctrine of "collateral estoppel" from law scho jeffm05/18/17
BUT SSA decisions are not "final decisions" generally speaki bakertaylor05/30/17
Second jeffm's post. Look up "defensive nonmutual collateral specv31305/18/17
But is the client a party to the ssdi hearing? If not, Then vespucius05/18/17
You need identity of parties for res judicata but not for co jeffm05/18/17
Agreed. Party identity is unnecessary for collateral estoppe specv31305/19/17
estoppel is a moot point because the definition of "Disabili bakertaylor05/30/17
It'd be more probative to have your expert review the record lolasaurusrex05/19/17
Not an expert by any means, but I'd not put much stock in a qdllc05/19/17
"get people on to SSDI is a cottage industry " Huge and s 2ski05/20/17
Hey, you spelled "ethic" wrong. ;-) inho2solo05/20/17
I don't know what "ethnic" you are referring to, but most pe johnsmith05/30/17
flharfh (May 18, 2017 - 4:58 pm)

I am defending a PI case in which the plaintiff claims to be permanently injured and unable to work but was denied SSDI. Does anyone have experience litigating whether the SSDI hearing findings would be admissible as evidence that he is not disabled? This issue only on the horizon for now (Plaintiff is appealing the SSDI determination, and depending on the appeal result I may be arguing the other side). I understand it may be state specific, but I'm sure someone has run into this before and might know what the standard evidentiary arguments are.

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bakertaylor (May 30, 2017 - 2:25 pm)

Not really- the SSA's definition of "disability" for purposes of Social Security Administrative law is much more complex as a concept than the concept in PI law. In SSA law a "Disability" has to not only be a "Disability" in the ordinary sense but has to meet special requirements imposed only in the sense of the administrative law, where the definition of "disability" in PI law is much more expansive generally speaking. Definitions for SSA law generally DON'T APPLY outside of SSA law- Social Security law is it's own legal bubble with it's own set of legal definitions that function independently from other areas of law.

Also, an SSA ALJ decision does not hold starre decicis as a judicial opinion (hence you won't be able to apply res judicata, etc. to such a decision, UNLESS its favorable to the applicant- in which case the U.S. attorney will likely intervene in your case if they catch wind your trying to attack it.) - because ALJs are NOT members of the judiciary, but rather are members of the executive branch in the relevant case law. Hence forth, the decision only counts as the legal position of the SSA- which in and of itself can be litigated in federal court. Also government employees including experts hired by the SSA, have sovereign immunity from civil process in cases where the United States isn't a party.

Your best bet is to obtain your own expert opinions independent of the government.

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karlfarbman (May 18, 2017 - 5:23 pm)

I don't know your state's laws about expert testimony but my first instinct is that if the findings you want to use were not a doctor's findings but SSA's, you might have trouble using them. If they are, seems like you could use them although you'd need the doctor's testimony, issues of hearsay contained in the documents aside. Last I saw SSDI records, doctors submitted their medical opinions re: the person's disability IIRC, so to the extent there are findings in those it seems like you could try to use them. Also, maybe the findings would be something the court could take judicial notice of like some other court records, although you may still have issues with the findings not coming from an expert.

Are you getting a doctor to do an IME? Seems like using the SSDI records might not be worth the hassle if you are.

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midlaw (May 18, 2017 - 6:32 pm)

Experts can rely on info that is otherwise inadmissible. Run it through an expert.

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jeffm (May 18, 2017 - 7:13 pm)

Remember the doctrine of "collateral estoppel" from law school? That's what you are describing. I've had to research it in the past, and my recollection is that a party can only be collaterally estopped by a final adjudication. If a final determination of denial is made, then, collateral estoppel might apply. There should be case law on whether determinations in administrative proceedings can apply.

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bakertaylor (May 30, 2017 - 2:34 pm)

BUT SSA decisions are not "final decisions" generally speaking, unless the case was litigated in front of a U.S. District Judge- the applicant for SSA benefits can always reapply.

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specv313 (May 18, 2017 - 7:17 pm)

Second jeffm's post. Look up "defensive nonmutual collateral estoppel".

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vespucius (May 18, 2017 - 8:42 pm)

But is the client a party to the ssdi hearing? If not, Then there cannot be estoppel? Also is the burden of proof the same in the ssdi hearing? Those are two issues.

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jeffm (May 18, 2017 - 10:31 pm)

You need identity of parties for res judicata but not for collateral estoppel. Good point about burden of proof.

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specv313 (May 19, 2017 - 5:59 pm)

Agreed. Party identity is unnecessary for collateral estoppel purposes. Hence the term "non mutual" collateral estoppel. Party identity (or those in privity with the original party) is unnecessary. Also agreed that burden of proof is an open question.

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bakertaylor (May 30, 2017 - 2:35 pm)

estoppel is a moot point because the definition of "Disability" in social security law is social security law SPECIFIC- it doesn't apply in PI law.

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lolasaurusrex (May 19, 2017 - 6:47 pm)

It'd be more probative to have your expert review the records. Additionally, permanently injured and permanently disabled are not one and the same thing. You can have a permanent impairment but not be permanetly disabled. For example, if plaintiff was 60 year old heavy duty laborer and after his injury social security said he could only do sedentary duty he could not be disabled. However his injuries could be permanent to not allow him to work in a heavy duty job anymore and at that age he might not have the skill set to work a sedentary job. Long way of saying I think you get better evidence in having an expert review the records then trying to submit SSDI records and have Plaintiff explain them away if you do not retain an expert.

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qdllc (May 19, 2017 - 7:36 pm)

Not an expert by any means, but I'd not put much stock in a SSDI denial unless it had run through the whole appeal process. From what I've heard from many disabled people who should get SSDI, it seems most everyone is denied initially. Litigation to get people on to SSDI is a cottage industry in many places. Only those really determined get on it.

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2ski (May 20, 2017 - 8:07 am)

"get people on to SSDI is a cottage industry "

Huge and so true. Tends to support how so many males of certain ethnic at at home during the day. Just sayn'

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inho2solo (May 20, 2017 - 9:37 am)

Hey, you spelled "ethic" wrong.
;-)

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johnsmith (May 30, 2017 - 2:41 pm)

I don't know what "ethnic" you are referring to, but most people on disability are white.

Why are people so hung up on "during the day?" You never heard of night jobs? Plenty of gainfully employed people stay home during the day.

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