United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
H. BRUCE GUYTON, Magistrate Judge.
All pretrial motions in this case have been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) for disposition or report and recommendation regarding disposition by the District Court as may be appropriate. This case is before the Court pursuant to Defendant's Motion to Strike Paragraph 49 of the Second Amended Complaint Relating to Coach Pat Summitt [Doc. 41], filed on June 19, 2014. Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Strike Paragraph 49 of the Second Amended Complaint, [Doc. 49], on July 3, 2014. The Defendant filed its Reply on July 10, 2014. [Doc. 50].
Plaintiffs filed this action on October 11, 2012. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Second Amended Complaint on May 30, 2014, and attached the Second Amended Complaint as exhibit thereto. [Doc. 38]. The Second Amended Complaint was filed on June 30, 2014, alleging gender discrimination and retaliatory terminations in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(2), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) against Defendant University of Tennessee-Knoxville. [Doc. 47]. Plaintiffs were employed by Defendant in the University of Tennessee Women's Athletic Department and allege that they were either terminated or demoted during consolidation of the Men's and Women's Athletic Departments because of their gender or association with women's sports.
In Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Paragraph 49 provides as follows:
As part of the consolidation and RIF, Mr. Hart also forced Coach Pat Summitt into an involuntary early retirement. In so doing, UT and Mr. Hart eliminated one of the most prominent and influential leaders in the history of NCAA women's intercollegiate athletics, who was perhaps the only woman at UT with the standing and influence to challenge or oppose the actions of UT and Mr. Hart.
[Doc 47 at 17].
Defendant, University of Tennessee, filed a motion to strike this paragraph pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(f) as immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous.
II. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
The Defendant argues that the Court should strike this paragraph because it is clearly false, highly prejudicial, immaterial, and scandalous. Primarily, Defendant argues that this allegation is false and any evidence to the contrary would be inadmissible. In defense of this claim, Defendant relies on Coach Summitt's statements and sworn declarations by the following: Coach Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, Dave Hart, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Margie Nichols, Vice Chancellor for Communications, and Katie Wynn, Coach Summitt's Administrative Assistant. [See Doc. 41-1-5]. Defendant asserts that these declarations establish that Coach Summitt was not forced into retirement and that any confusion regarding the basis for that decision was clarified and set forth in writing. In light of the alleged falsity of the claim alleged in Paragraph 49, Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs' "only purpose" for including Paragraph 49 is to "inflame passions against Mr. Hart and the University and to thereby unduly prejudice the University by means of negative press coverage." [Doc. 42 at 20-21].
Defendant further argues that the allegation set forth in Paragraph 49 is irrelevant to the Plaintiffs' claims. Defendant explains that the Plaintiffs' case concerns gender-based wage discrimination and retaliation claims and that Coach Summitt's decision to retire has no bearing on such issues. Defendant argues that this allegation would not only prejudice the University, but also Coach Summitt, who remains employed as Head Coach Emeritus at the University of Tennessee.
Plaintiffs respond that Paragraph 49 is relevant to the Plaintiffs' claims, alleging that Coach Summitt's treatment evidences a pattern of gender discrimination by the Defendant. Plaintiffs argue that Mr. Hart wished to remove Coach Summitt from her position for discriminatory reasons and that she was forced to retire as a result. Plaintiffs contend that the alleged falsity of the claim is not grounds to strike per FRCP 12(f), and that the allegation is not immaterial or impertinent, as Coach Summitt was strategically forced to retire in order to remove her as "roadblock to the demotion or firing of women or men associated with women's sports[.]" [Doc 49 at 11]. Plaintiffs argue that the allegation set forth in Paragraph 49 is not scandalous because it does not cast Coach Summitt in a negative light but instead praises her character. Finally, Plaintiffs argue that the Defendant's motion is baseless because it declined to file a similar motion in the case of Jennings v. University of Tennessee and Hart; 3:12-CV-507. Plaintiffs contend that Jennings alleged gender discrimination and referred to Coach Summitt's retirement as a source of proof of such discrimination. Because Defendant declined to file a motion to strike in that case, Plaintiffs argue that Defendant does not truly believe that Paragraph 49 is immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that a court "may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." However, to strike a portion of a complaint "should be sparingly used by the courts, ' because it is a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when... the pleading to be stricken has no possible relation to the controversy.' Felts v. Cleveland Hous. Auth. , 821 F.Supp.2d ...