Biestek v. Berryhill

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: April 1, 2019
  • Case #: 17–1184
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, BREYER, ALITO, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

An expert’s refusal to provide data related to testimony about the availability of certain jobs does not preclude the expert’s testimony from constituting substantial evidence under 42 U. S. C. §405(g).

Petitioner applied for social security disability benefits. The Social Security Act (SSA) required the administrative law judge (ALJ) to ascertain whether types of jobs Petitioner could perform existed in significant numbers. A vocational expert provided testimony that such jobs existed in significant numbers. Petitioner’s lawyer requested the private data on which the expert based her testimony, but the ALJ did not require the expert to produce the data while concluding Petitioner’s disabilities should not have prevented a successful adjustment to other work, as based on the expert’s testimony. The district court and Sixth Circuit rejected Petitioner’s argument that refusing a request for data about job availability should not satisfy the substantial-evidence standard of the SSA. The Supreme Court also rejected Petitioner’s proposed rule. The Court reasoned that a party may still challenge the strength of an expert’s testimony through questions related to the expert’s sources and methods, and that a factfinder could still find that such testimony supported the presented conclusion, regardless of significant testing. While the Court noted that sometimes the withholding of such data would prevent testimony from qualifying as substantial evidence in a given context, the Court ultimately stated that Petitioner’s argument failed by seeking a categorical rule for every circumstance. AFFIRMED.

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