United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and the referral of the Chief
District Judge [Doc. 157].
before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike
Jacobs Amended Answer or in the Alternative Motion for More
Definite Statement [Doc. 156 in Adkisson,
3:13-CV-505; Doc. 151 in Thompson, 3:13-CV-666; Doc.
131 in Cunningham, 3:14-CV-20; Doc. 106 in
Rose, 3:15-CV- 17; Doc. 105 in Wilkinson,
3:15-CV-274; Doc. 93 in Shelton, 3:15-CV-420; Doc. 95 in
Church, 3:15-CV-460; Doc. 98 in Vanguilder,
3:15-CV-462; Doc. 26 in Ivens, 3:16-CV-635; Doc. 24
in Farrow, 3:16-CV-636-TAV-HBG]. Jacobs Engineering
Group, Inc., (“Jacobs”) filed a Response in
opposition. [Doc. 52]. The motion is now ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons explained below, the Court
DENIES the Plaintiffs' motion.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
Plaintiffs move the Court to strike Jacobs' Amended
Answer [Doc. 140], filed on March 17, 2017, or in the
alterative, move for a more definite statement. The
Plaintiffs assert that the Amended Answer was filed untimely
in that it was not filed “within 21 days after filing
its original Answer and because Jacobs did not seek
permission from the Court prior to filing the Amended
Answers.” [Id. at 3]. The Amended Answer, at
paragraph 21, now includes comparative fault as an
affirmative defense which the Plaintiffs maintain is
insufficiently pled because the affirmative defense requires
more detail. Specifically, while the Amended Answer names
over 30 entities Jacobs asserts may be comparatively
negligent, the Plaintiffs maintain that Jacobs failed to
include the addresses of each entity and failed to provide a
basis for comparative fault.
responds that its Amended Answer was timely filed, citing to
this Court's February 23, 2017 Memorandum and Order [Doc.
138] in which the Court set forth an amended schedule for
Phase I of trial with a deadline of March 17, 2017, for
amending pleadings. Jacobs further maintains that its
comparative fault affirmative defense satisfies pleading
requirements. In this regard, Jacobs asserts that it properly
identified the entities that may be comparatively negligent,
the reasons for liability, and provided sufficient notice of
the nature of the defense.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) allows a court to “strike
from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” A court
may strike a pleading sua sponte or “on motion
made by a party either before responding to the pleading or,
if a response is not allowed, within 21 days after being
served with the pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f)(1)-(2).
Motions to strike are viewed with disfavor and are not
frequently granted. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.
v. United States, 201 F.2d 819, 822 (6th Cir. 1953). The
purpose of a motion to strike is to “avoid the
expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating
spurious issues by dispensing with” them early in the
case. Kennedy v. City of Cleveland, 797 F.2d 297,
305 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H.
Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983)).
initial matter, the Court finds the Plaintiffs' motion to
strike was filed untimely. Jacobs filed their Amended Answer
on March 17, 2017. The instant motion was filed on April 18,
2017, approximately 32 days later. Therefore, the
Plaintiffs' motion falls outside the 21-day window
provided by Rule 12(f). Although Jacobs does not assert this
argument, the Court finds that it may deny the
Plaintiffs' motion to strike on this basis alone.
so, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs' motion should be
denied on the merits as well. Pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 15(a), a party may amend its pleading as a
matter of course within 21 days after serving it, 21 days
after service of a responsive pleading, or 21 days after
service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). “In
all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the
opposing party's written consent or the court's
leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. (a)(2). However, as cited by
Jacobs, this Court's February 23, 2017 Memorandum and
Order [Doc. 138] set forth an amended schedule based upon a
new Phase I trial date. In relevant part, the Court ordered
that the parties may amend their pleadings on or before March
17, 2017 [Id. at 3], the same date in which Jacobs
filed its Amended Answers. Therefore, the Plaintiffs'
reliance on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) is
misplaced given the Court's amended schedule.
Court also declines to order Jacobs to file a more definite
statement with regard to its comparative fault affirmative
defense. Motions for more definite statements are generally
disfavored “and in light of Rule 8(a)(2)'s notice
pleading standards and the opportunity for extensive pretrial
discovery, courts rarely grant such motions.” Davis
v. City of Memphis Fire Dep't, No. 11-3076-STA-CGC,
2012 WL 2000713, at *3 (W.D. Tenn. May 31, 2012). Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b)(1)(A) requires responsive
pleadings to “state in short and plain terms its
defenses.” In other words, “[t]he general rule is
that an affirmative defense may be pled in general terms and
will survive a motion to strike as long as it gives the
plaintiff fair notice of the nature of the defense.”
Bradford Co. v. Afco Mfg., No. 1:05-CV-449, 2006 WL
143343, at *5 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 19, 2006) (citing 5 Wright,
et al., Federal Practice & Procedure §
1274, at 616-17 (3rd ed. 2004)). The Court has reviewed
Jacobs' comparative fault affirmative defense and finds
that Jacobs has met the pleading standard of Rule 8. The
Plaintiffs have been given fair notice that Jacobs may assert
comparative fault against the entities named in its Amended
Answer. The specific facts and basis supporting Jacobs'
affirmative defense, which the Plaintiffs seek to draw out by
requesting a more definite statement, may be learned through
and for the reasons explained above, the Plaintiffs'
Motion to Strike Jacobs Amended Answer or in the Alternative
Motion for More Definite Statement [Doc. 156 in
Adkisson, 3:13-CV-505; Doc. 151 in
Thompson, 3:13-CV-666; Doc. 131 in
Cunningham, 3:14-CV-20; Doc. 106 in Rose,
3:15-CV-17; Doc. 105 in Wilkinson, 3:15-CV-274; Doc.
93 in Shelton, 3:15-CV-420; Doc. 95 in Church,
3:15-CV-460; Doc. 98 in Vanguilder, 3:15-CV-462;
Doc. 26 in Ivens, 3:16-CV-635; Doc. 24 in
Farrow, 3:16-CV-636-TAV-HBG] is not well-taken, and
the same is DENIED.