United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
DONNA L. FORSYTHE, Plaintiff,
FIRST FINANCIAL INVESTMENT FUND HOLDINGS, LLC et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Require
Defendants to Amend their Answer or Deem Responses Admitted
[Doc. 15], filed on July 24, 2019. Plaintiff additionally
filed a Memorandum in support of her motion. [Doc. 16]. In
the pending motion, Plaintiff seeks for the Court to enter an
order requiring the Defendants to amend their Answer to
comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b), or for the
Court to deem the allegations in the Complaint admitted.
filed her Complaint against Defendants under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et
seq., on May 15, 2019. [Doc. 1]. Defendants subsequently
filed an Answer [Doc. 10] to Plaintiff's Complaint on
July 3, 2019. Plaintiff now challenges several of the
Defendants' responses, claiming that Defendants
improperly merely stated that “the allegations . . .
call for a legal conclusion and therefore do not require a
response” or “the statute (or document) speaks
for itself and therefore a response is not required.”
[Doc. 16 at 1]. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that
Defendants' responses to Paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14,
17, 37, 39, 40, 50, 51, 52, 67, 86, and 87 are in violation
of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b) as they merely state
that the allegations in the Complaint call for a legal
conclusion and therefore do not require a response. Further,
Plaintiff maintains that Defendants' responses to
Paragraphs 14, 15, 17, 24, 25, 26, 31, 34, 38, 46, 48, 49,
63, and 64 improperly state that the statute or document
speaks for itself and do not require a response.
8(b) requires that a party, in responding to a pleading,
“admit or deny the allegations asserted against it by
an opposing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(B). An
allegation of the complaint is admitted if “a
responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not
denied.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6). “Rule 8 provides
for only three possible responses to allegations in a civil
complaint: 1) admit the allegation; 2) deny the allegation;
or 3) state that there is insufficient knowledge or
information to form a belief about the truth of the
allegation.” Revocable Living Trust of Stewart I v.
Lake Erie Utilities Co., 3:14-cv-2245, 2015 WL 2097738,
at *3 (N.D. Ohio May 5, 2015) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
event of a denial, a party must “fairly respond to the
substance of the allegation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(2). If
a party does not intend to deny all of the allegations in a
complaint, the party “must either specifically deny
designated allegations or generally deny all except those
specifically admitted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(3).
“Answers that neither admit nor deny, but simply demand
proof of the plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to
constitute a denial.” Bailey v. Gibson Hotel Mgmt.,
Inc., No. 3:18-CV-167, 2018 WL 5815548, at *4 (E.D.
Tenn. Nov. 6, 2018).
the Court finds that Defendants have failed to respond in
opposition to the Motion, and the time for doing so has
expired. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.2 (“Failure to
respond to a motion may be deemed a waiver of any opposition
to the relief sought.”). In addition, the Court finds
that Defendants' Motion is well-taken.
first challenges the Defendants' responses in the Answer
merely stating that the allegations in the Complaint call for
a legal conclusion. “Indeed, the response of
‘calls for a legal conclusion,' however common,
does not fall within the well-defined ambit of those approved
by Rule 8 . . . Options afforded under this Rule should not
exceed: admit, deny, or lack information to form a sufficient
belief.” Joseph v. Ford Motor Co., No.
06-10274, 2009 WL 10680506, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2009)
(quoting Farrell v. Pike, 342 F.Supp.2d 433, 440
(M.D. N.C. 2004)); see, e.g., Nichia Corp. v.
Vizio, Inc., No. 2:16-CV-00875-JRG, 2017 WL 10442228, at
*2 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 15, 2017) (“This sort of answer
‘violates the express Rule 8(b) requirement that all
allegations must be responded to.' Perhaps even more
importantly, it disregards established law that legal
conclusions are an integral part of the federal notice
pleading regime.”) (internal citations omitted).
Similarly, Rule 8 does not permit responses that indicate
that “the document and testimony ‘speaks for
themselves.'” Joseph, 2009 WL 10680506, at
*2 (quoting State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. v. Riley, 199
F.R.D. 276, 278 (N.D. Ill. 2001)); see, e.g., Do
It Best Corp. v. Heinen Hardware, LLC, No. 1:13-CV-69,
2013 WL 3421924, at *6 (N.D. Ind. July 8, 2013).
certain responses, Defendants failed to respond to the
allegations in the Complaint; but rather only stated that the
allegations “call for a legal conclusion and therefore
do not require a response” [Doc. 10 at ¶ 40], or
that a document or statute “speaks for itself and
therefore a response is not required.” [Id. at
¶ 25]. In other responses, Defendant admitted or denied
a portion of the allegations in the Complaint, but improperly
declined to respond to the remainder of the allegations by
stating that the paragraph called for a legal conclusion or
that the document speaks for itself. See i.e.,
[Id. at ¶¶ 17, 37].
seeks for the Court to either require Defendants to amend
their Answer or deem the allegations in the Complaint
admitted. “The corollary to Rule 8 is the liberal
amendment policies embodied in [ ] Rule 15.” U.S.
v. Vehicle 2007 Mack 600 Dump Truck, et al, 680
F.Supp.2d 816, 826 (E.D. Mich. 2010). “Pertinent here,
Rule 15 allows a party to amend with the opposing party's
written consent or the court's leave, which the court
‘should freely give leave when justice so
requires.'” Revocable Living Tr. of Stewart I
v. Lake Erie Utilities Co., No. 3:14 CV 2245, 2015 WL
2097738, at *3 (N.D. Ohio May 5, 2015) (quoting Fed. R Civ.
P. 15(2)). Ultimately, Defendants are instructed to amend
their answers to the challenged paragraphs to clearly state
whether they admit, deny, or lack sufficient information to
form a belief as to the truth of an averment.
the Court finds Plaintiffs Motion [Doc. 15]
well-taken, and it is GRANTED IN PART. While
the Court will not deem the allegations in the Complaint
admitted, the Defendants SHALL respond to
each challenged paragraph of Plaintiff s Complaint in
accordance with the requirements set forth in Rule 8(b) on or
before September 12, 2019.