United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jennifer Smith (“Smith”) filed her Complaint
against Defendants City of Pelham, Larry Palmer, and Gary
Waters on August 8, 2017. (Doc. 1). The Complaint pursues
eleven different claims ranging from Title VII to the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Stored
Communications Act, and Alabama state law. (See Id.
at 1-2). Defendants filed a Motion To Dismiss, combined with
an early Motion for Summary Judgment, (the
“Motion”) that is the subject of the present
Memorandum Opinion and Order. (Doc. 13). Smith responded to
that Motion, and also filed a Rule 56(d) Motion. (Docs. 22,
23). The Court denied the Rule 56(d) Motion and gave Smith
time to file an adequate response to the Motion. (Doc. 36).
The briefing is complete and the Court now takes the Motion
under submission. For the reasons stated herein, the Court
ORDERS Smith to replead her Complaint and
DENIES the Motion without prejudice.
Court has concerns about evaluating the merits of the
Defendants' Motion based on its uncertainty about the
scope of Smith's Complaint and the numerous pleading
deficiencies contained therein.
Complaint represents a classic “shotgun
pleading.” This sort of pleading fails to comply with
the requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. The typical shotgun pleading is one that
“contains several counts, each one incorporating by
reference the allegations of its predecessors, leading to a
situation where most of the counts (i.e., all but
the first) contain irrelevant factual allegations and legal
conclusions.” Strategic Income Fund, LLC v. Spear,
Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th
Cir. 2002). The term also refers to pleadings that are
“replete with factual allegations and rambling legal
conclusions.” Osahar v. U.S. Postal Service,
297 Fed.Appx. 863, 864 (11th Cir. 2008). The Eleventh Circuit
has repeatedly condemned the use of shotgun pleadings for
“imped[ing] the administration of the district
courts' civil dockets, ” PVC Windoors, Inc. v.
Babbitbay Beach Constr., N.V., 598 F.3d 802, 806 n.4
(11th Cir. 2010), and making it “‘virtually
impossible to know which allegations of fact are intended to
support which claim(s) for relief.'” Popham v.
Cobb Cnty., Ga. Gov't, 392 Fed.Appx. 677, 680 (11th
Cir. 2010) (quoting Anderson v. Dist. Bd. of Trs. of
Cent. Fla. Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir.
have a role to play in preventing shotgun pleadings from
frustrating the “just, speedy, and inexpensive
determination of every action and proceeding.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. For example, defendants can (and should) move
for a more definite statement before moving to dismiss or
filing an answer. See Weiland v. Palm Peach County
Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1321-23 & n.10
(11th Cir. 2015) (encouraging parties to move for a more
definitive statement and explaining the Eleventh
Circuit's position on shotgun pleadings). Generally, the
appropriate response to a shotgun complaint is to dismiss it
and allow the plaintiff an opportunity to amend to provide
greater specificity. Anderson, 77 F.3d at 366;
Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir.
2001) (“In the past when faced with [shotgun]
complaints like this one, we have vacated judgments and
remanded with instructions that the district court require
plaintiffs to replead their claims.”).
Eleventh Circuit has even noted the four types of shotgun
Though the groupings cannot be too finely drawn, we have
identified four rough types or categories of shotgun
pleadings. The most common type-by a long shot-is a complaint
containing multiple counts where each count adopts the
allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive
count to carry all that came before and the last count to be
a combination of the entire complaint. The next most common
type, at least as far as our published opinions on the
subject reflect, is a complaint that does not commit the
mortal sin of re-alleging all preceding counts but is guilty
of the venial sin of being replete with conclusory, vague,
and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any
particular cause of action. The third type of shotgun
pleading is one that commits the sin of not separating into a
different count each cause of action or claim for relief.
Fourth, and finally, there is the relatively rare sin of
asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without
specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which
acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is
brought against. The unifying characteristic of all types of
shotgun pleadings is that they fail to one degree or another,
and in one way 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 1313 (internal footnotes
omitted). Smith's Complaint is replete with these issues.
example, Smith's Complaint has numerous examples of the
first type of shotgun pleading- re-alleging previous
paragraphs without discerning what facts matter. (Doc. 1 at
10 ¶50, 13 ¶65, 22 ¶128, 23 ¶134, 24
¶141, 26 ¶149, 27 ¶157). This pleading error
starts fairly small. The first time she only re-alleges 38
paragraphs. (Id. at 10 ¶50). However, by the
end of the Complaint the error crescendos to re-alleging a
total of 145 paragraphs. (Id. at 27 ¶157). This
Smith's Complaint names three defendants- the City of
Pelham, Larry Palmer, and Gary Waters. (Id. at 2-3).
However, her Complaint fails have one count for each
defendant. (Id. at 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26,
27). This problem is compounded when Smith fails to make
clear which Defendant she is talking about. (See e.g.,
Id. at 13 ¶¶70-72, 15 ¶¶77-80). This
is even a problem in the “statement of claims”
section. (See Id. at 8-10) (emphasis and
capitalization omitted). Smith will refer to plural
“Defendants” in one paragraph, then refer to the
now singular “Defendant” the next, and vice
versa. (See e.g., Id. at 28 at ¶¶164-65).
At least once, Smith referred to plural defendants, then a
singular defendant, then plural once more. (Id. at
28 ¶¶161-164). The three Defendants are not the
same person. Smith needs to distinguish which Defendant she
is talking about.
foregoing were just a few examples of the flaws in this
Complaint. There are more that should be fixed in the new
amended complaint. Pleading a Complaint with facts and
clarity is especially important in a case like the present,
where Smith alleges eleven counts against three defendants.
(See generally Doc. 1). Repleading the Complaint
will clarify the case and help the parties focus on what
precisely Smith is alleging. Doing so protects Smith's
interests as it will help ensure that none of her numerous
theories are lost in the web of a shotgun pleading.