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Dodd v. McDaniel

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 12, 2017

SHARI DODD and ROBERT WAYNE DODD, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
DAVID K. MCDANIEL and LANDSTAR INWAY, INC. Defendants

          CRENSHAW JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          BARBARA D. HOLMES United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike Certain Defenses in Defendants' Answers (Docket No. 49), filed on May 26, 2017. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is DENIED. As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that there is a lack of consensus as to whether a motion to strike is a nondispositive matter that may be determined by a magistrate judge or a dispositive matter that must be addressed by a report and recommendation of the magistrate judge to the district judge. See Barmore v. County Fair, Inc., No. 03-cv-888A, 2001 WL 976420, at *1 n.1 (motions to strike not dispositive) (citations omitted); Herrera v. Mich. Dep't of Corrs., No. 5:10-cv-11215, 2011 WL 3862426, at *1 n.1 (motion to strike dispositive) (citations omitted). This issue was not addressed by either party in their respective papers, and was raised for the first time during argument. Given the lack of direct guidance in the Sixth Circuit, and at least under the present circumstances, the Court concludes that its determination is a nondispositive one that may therefore be issued by memorandum and order.[1]

         Background

         Plaintiffs originally filed a lawsuit in the Dickson County Circuit Court on August 25, 2016, for damages arising out of a June 17, 2016 multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 40 at the exit 172 ramp. See Docket No. 1-1. Defendants removed the lawsuit to this court on September 28, 2016. Docket No. 1. On September 29, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a first Amended Complaint. Docket No. 7. Plaintiffs allege that a commercial tractor-trailer owned by Defendant Landstar Inway and operated by Defendant David McDaniel while employed by Landstar Inway collided with a Ford Expedition in which Plaintiff Shari Dodd was a passenger. Id. at 2-3.[2] In their answers to the Amended Complaint, Defendants asserts the following at-issue affirmative defenses:[3]

         SECOND DEFENSE

         Defendant avers that there exists no proximate causation between any averred act, omission or breach of duty by Defendant. In addition, Plaintiffs' averred damages, injuries and/or losses were the result of conduct of persons or entities other than Defendant.

         THIRD DEFENSE

         Defendant avers that the injuries, damages and/or losses sustained by Plaintiffs were a direct or proximate result of the negligence or fault of one or more persons or entities and, therefore, Defendant's liability, if any, to Plaintiffs for damages, should be diminished, reduced or set off based upon fault and responsibility of Plaintiffs or of such other persons and/or entities, or of both.

         FIFTH DEFENSE

         Defendant alleges that Exit 172, for westbound traffic on Interstate 40, was designed and constructed by federal and state officials in such a manner so as to cause traffic to back up on Interstate 40 requiring such traffic to use the northernmost shoulder of Interstate 40 and encroach into the northernmost travel lane of Interstate 40, thereby impeding the normal flow of traffic, which caused or contributed to the subject accident.

         On May 26, 2017-more than seven months after Defendants first answered-Plaintiffs moved to strike these affirmative defenses claiming that the defenses are impermissibly vague and “fail to comport with applicable law” by failing to identify the allegedly culpable nonparties and failing to provide a factual basis for the claims of comparative fault. Docket No. 49 at 2.[4] The “applicable law” to which Plaintiffs refer is Tennessee R. Civ. P. 8.03. Docket No. 50 at 2.

         Analysis and Conclusion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) permits the court to strike, at any time, an “insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous” matter. “[I]t is well-established that the action of striking a pleading should be sparingly used by the courts.” Brown v. Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. United States,201 F.2d 819, 822 (6th Cir.1953). Thus, “a motion to strike should be granted only when the pleading to be stri[c]ken has no possible relation to the ...


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