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Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 3, 2018

VIBE MICRO, INC., a Nevada Corporation, 8 SPEED 8, a foreign corporation, EDWARD MANDEL, an individual, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
IGOR SHABANETS, an individual, SIG CAPITAL, INC., a Florida corporation, RAIN KIOSK, INC., a foreign corporation, KARLA GUARINO, an individual, THOMAS PARKER, an individual, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 9:15-cv-80999-DMM

          Before WILSON and ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judges, and TITUS, [*] District Judge.

          WILSON, Circuit Judge:

         This appeal concerns the discretion of a district court to dismiss a complaint on shotgun pleading grounds. Plaintiff Edward Mandel[1] appeals the district court's dismissal with prejudice of his Second Amended Complaint (SAC). The district court, lamenting the shotgun pleading nature of the First Amended Complaint (FAC), had given Mandel-represented by counsel that failed to request leave to amend-an opportunity to replead and a thorough set of directions on how to remedy the errors in the FAC. When Mandel failed to do so in the SAC, and perhaps even exacerbated the pleading issues, the district court dismissed the SAC with prejudice on Rule 8 grounds. Mandel now argues that the district court was powerless to do so, and that he deserves at least one more chance to replead. After reviewing the record and briefs, and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm on most issues, but remand in a limited manner with respect to the state law claims.

         I.

         After allegedly being the victim of a scheme to force him off the board of a bill payment terminal company, Edward Mandel sued numerous defendants in the Southern District of Florida. Represented by counsel, he filed a six-count original complaint (OC), alleging breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, and violations of the RICO statute. The OC spanned 49 pages, with 109 pages of exhibits.[2]Amending once as of right, Mandel, still represented by counsel, filed the FAC, which had grown to 56 pages and 168 pages of exhibits.

         The FAC was "a mostly incoherent document" containing "duplicative, " "inconsistent, " and "wholly conclusory" allegations in paragraphs that spanned multiple pages. Vibe Micro v. Shabanets, No. 15-cv-80999, 2015 WL 11438937, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 4, 2015), ECF No. 97. Its allegations were "oftentimes not connected to a particular Defendant or set of Defendants, making it impossible to understand who did what." Id. In light of these deficiencies, several defendants filed motions to dismiss. Mandel never requested leave to amend the FAC, either in his responses to the motions to dismiss or anywhere else.

         The district court dismissed the FAC without prejudice for violating Rule 8.[3]Making an "attempt[] to understand the alleged facts, to the extent possible, " however, the district court enumerated several deficiencies in the FAC, and stated that Mandel "must cure" them in a SAC if he wished for the case to continue. Id. This 15 page order dismissing the FAC thoroughly explained how to improve the pleadings through a SAC, and the district court sua sponte allowed Mandel to file a SAC within 10 days.

         Unfortunately, the SAC did not improve. It ballooned to 70 pages, with 160 pages of exhibits. The "allegations remain[ed] duplicative, " it "continue[d] to contain labeling and numerical inconsistencies, " and it "continue[d] to fail to provide even minimal notice to the individual Defendants as to what conduct they are alleged to have participated in." Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, No. 15-cv-80999, 2016 WL 4256915, at *1-2 (S.D. Fla. July 19, 2016), ECF No. 146. Once again, several defendants filed motions to dismiss, and, once again, Mandel-still represented by counsel-did not request leave to amend his pleading.[4]

         The district court found that the SAC was "a 'shot gun' pleading of the sort the Eleventh Circuit 'has been roundly, repeatedly, and consistently condemning for years, '" and that its "[m]aterial allegations, if there are any, [were] 'buried beneath innumerable pages of rambling irrelevancies, ' making no distinction between the defendants engaged in the various alleged acts." Id. at *2 (citations omitted). Finding that it violated Rule 8, the district court dismissed the SAC with prejudice. After this order dismissing the SAC, Mandel did not file any motions and did not make any requests for leave to amend. Rather, he simply appealed the order.

         On appeal, Mandel admits that the SAC "had not fixed all of the shot-gun pleading problems that resulted in the dismissal of the FAC, " but argues that he deserves "at least one additional opportunity to fix the pleading problems." The thrust of his argument is that a district court can never dismiss a pleading with prejudice on Rule 8 shotgun pleading grounds unless it finds evidence of bad faith. We disagree.

         II.

         We review a dismissal on Rule 8 shotgun pleading grounds for an abuse of discretion. Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015). Shotgun pleadings violate Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), by "fail[ing] to one degree or another . . . to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests." Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1323 (defining the four types of shotgun pleadings). Courts in the Eleventh Circuit have little tolerance for shotgun pleadings. See generally Davis v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consol., 516 F.3d 955, 979-80 & n.54 (11th Cir. 2008) (collecting numerous cases), abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). They waste scarce judicial resources, "inexorably broaden[] the scope of discovery, " "wreak havoc on appellate court dockets, " and "undermine[] the public's respect for the courts." Id. at 981-83 (detailing the "unacceptable consequences of shotgun pleading").

         A district court has the "inherent authority to control its docket and ensure the prompt resolution of lawsuits, " which includes the ability to dismiss a complaint on shotgun pleading grounds. Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1320. In the special circumstance of non-merits dismissals on shotgun pleading grounds, we have required district courts to sua sponte allow a litigant one chance to remedy such deficiencies. See, e.g., Wagner v. First Horizon Pharm. Corp., 464 F.3d 1273, 1280 (11th Cir. 2006); Byrne v. Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075, 1133 (11th Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds by Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co., 553 U.S. 639, 128 S.Ct. 2131 (2008); Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284-85 (11th Cir. 2001) (per curiam). In these cases, even if the parties do not request it, the district court "should strike the complaint and instruct counsel to replead the case-if counsel could in good faith make the representations required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)." Byrne, 261 F.3d at 1133 n.113 (alterations adopted) (quoting Cramer v. Florida, 117 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 1997)). This initial repleading order comes with an implicit "notion ...


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