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Araujo v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 14, 2014

BERNARDO VILLA ARAUJO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Bernardo Villa Araujo, Plaintiff: Matty Michael Sandoval, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Matty M Sandoval, San Diego, CA.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant: Paul Sachelari, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel, San Francisco, CA; Thomas C Stahl, LEAD ATTORNEY, U S Attorneys Office Southern District of California, San Diego, CA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE RE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NO. 11] AND DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NO. 12]

Jan M. Adler, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Bernardo Villa Araujo (" Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of Defendant Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin's (" Defendant") determination that he is not entitled to disability insurance benefits (" DIB") and supplemental security income (" SSI"). The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be DENIED and that Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment be GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a resident of Brawley, California, was born in 1959. (Admin. R. at 25, 98.) He completed twelfth grade and previously worked as a driver in the agricultural field and a driver/mechanic in the cattle business. (Id. at 134.) In applications for DIB and SSI filed in December 2011 and October 2012, respectively, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of February 11, 2011 due to problems with his left leg and hands. (Id. at 98-101, 108-17, 129-38.) Plaintiff's application for DIB was denied initially on April 12, 2012 and upon reconsideration on September 28, 2012. (Id. at 62-66.) On October 11, 2012, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. (Id. at 67-68.) A hearing was conducted in Tucson, Arizona on April 11, 2013 by Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ") Laura Speck Havens, who determined on May 8, 2013 that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 14-19.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision; the Appeals Council for the Social Security Administration (" SSA") denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 8, 2013. (Id. at 1-3.) Plaintiff then commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. MEDICAL EVIDENCE

A. Steven Tradonsky, M.D. - Worker's Compensation Doctor

Dr. Steven Tradonsky conducted an orthopaedic reevaluation of Plaintiff on May 5, 2011. (Id. at 190-99.) Dr. Tradonsky noted in his report that he had treated Plaintiff between December 2007 and November 2009 for an injury Plaintiff sustained at work on November 19, 2007 when he slipped while refueling a truck and twisted his left knee. (Id. at 190.) At that time, Plaintiff was diagnosed with multi-ligament injuries in the knee and a peroneal nerve palsy with foot drop. (Id.)[1] Plaintiff underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries and was released to his work duties without restrictions in or around August 2009. (Id.) Plaintiff performed his work duties until February 2011 when he was laid off. (Id.)

Plaintiff presented to Dr. Tradonsky on May 5, 2011 with complaints of increasing symptoms in his leg. (Id.) He reported that he had mild ongoing pain in his knee on a daily basis, as well as intermittent sharp pain. (Id. at 191.) His primary difficulty was with walking, as he continued to have a partial foot drop on his left side if he walked more than a quarter of a mile. (Id.) As a result, he had fallen on multiple occasions. (Id.) He also complained of occasional pain radiating up toward his hip and into his low back because of his altered gait secondary to his foot drop. (Id.)

Dr. Tradonsky determined that Plaintiff's symptoms were related to the work injury he sustained on November 19, 2007, and opined that Plaintiff could perform his regular work duties without restrictions. (Id. at 192.) Dr. Tradonsky recommended that Plaintiff be seen by an orthotist for evaluation for a spring-loaded foot drop splint to assist him with his abnormal gait. (Id. at 193.)

B. Mervat G. Kelada, M.D. - Examining Physician

Plaintiff received a general medical examination from Dr. Mervat Kelada on July 11, 2011. (Id. at 174-78.) Dr. Kelada noted that Plaintiff walked with a brace and a mild limp, and had been unemployed since February 2011, when he was laid off due to the economy. (Id. at 174-75.) She also noted that Plaintiff had been told he had hypertension years ago, but had not been taking any medication for his blood pressure. (Id.) Dr. Kelada opined that Plaintiff had a mild disability, but with his driver's license could still work as a driver. (Id. at 175.)

C. Thomas A. Schweller, M.D. - Examining Physician

Plaintiff underwent a neurological consultation with Dr. Thomas Schweller on March 28, 2012 at the request of the Department of Social Services. (Id. at 179-81.) Plaintiff recounted the history of his left knee injury and foot drop, and also advised that he began to have numbness in his hands in 2007 but had never been evaluated for it. (Id. at 179.) He had been wearing self-prescribed braces on his wrists during his sleep for the past two years. (Id.) Dr. Schweller's diagnoses consisted of status post left peroneal nerve injury at the knee, bilateral median neuropathy at the wrists, and uncontrolled and untreated hypertension. (Id. at 181.) With respect to Plaintiff's functional capacity, Dr. Schweller opined that Plaintiff could sit, stand, and walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday; could lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, with occasional limits in bending, stooping, and squatting; had no kneeling or crawling limitations; and did not require an assistive device for ambulation, but should avoid unprotected ...


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