United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
SCOTT A. KETRING, Plaintiff,
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an employment discrimination case under Title VII. Plaintiff
Scott A. Ketring, an associate professor in the Marriage and
Family Therapy program at Auburn University, alleges that he
experienced discrimination and a hostile work environment on
the basis of his Mormon faith. In addition to his Title VII
discrimination and hostile work environment claims, he claims
that he was retaliated against for complaining of
discrimination. Before the court is Defendant Auburn
University's motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 12.) Defendant
seeks dismissal on two grounds: (1) that Plaintiff's
complaint constitutes an impermissible shotgun pleading; and
(2) that Plaintiff's judicial complaint exceeds the scope
of the charge of discrimination he filed with the EEOC. For
the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss
will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs complaint is an impermissible shotgun pleading
and must be repleaded.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint
“must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Each allegation in the complaint “must be simple,
concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 10 provides that the complaint must
“state [the plaintiffs] claims . . . in numbered
paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single
set of circumstances.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b).
The purpose of [Rule 8(a)(2) and Rule 10(b)] is self-evident,
to require the pleader to present his claims discretely and
succinctly, so that [ ] his adversary can discern what he is
claiming and frame a responsive pleading, the court can
determine which facts support which claims and whether the
plaintiff has stated any claims upon which relief can be
granted, and, at trial, the court can determine that evidence
which is relevant and that which is not.
Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriffs Office, 792 F.3d
1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting T.D.S. Inc. v.
Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 760 F.2d 1520, 1544 n.14 (11th
Cir. 1985) (Tjoflat, J., dissenting)); see also
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (holding that the purpose of
Rule 8(a)(2) is to “give the defendant fair notice of
what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
(citation, quotation marks, and ellipsis omitted)).
that violate either Rule 8(a)(2) or Rule 10(b), or both, are
often disparagingly referred to as ‘shotgun pleadings,
'” and have been uniformly rejected by the Eleventh
Circuit. Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1320. There are four
types of shotgun pleadings: (1) pleadings that
“contain[ ] 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”; (2) pleadings
that are “guilty of the venial sin of being replete
with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously
connected to any particular cause of action”; (3)
pleadings that “commit[ ] the sin of not separating
into a different count each cause of action or claim for
relief”; and (4) pleadings that commit “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.”
Id. at 1321.
complaint is a type-one shotgun complaint. It adopts not
merely the allegations of all preceding counts, but each and
every allegation in the complaint, including the allegations
that support subsequent counts. This court has warned against
such a practice:
Rote and repeated incorporations by reference fill each count
“with factual allegations that could not possibly be
material to that specific count, ” flouting the Rule
10(b) requirement to plead separate claims in separate
counts. Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284
(11th Cir. 2001). It is not enough to “clearly
incorporate[ ] all ‘facts' ple[aded] in the amended
complaint]” . . . as Plaintiff has done; rather the
supporting facts must be pleaded in the count asserting the
cause of action. See Wagner v. First Horizon Pharm.
Corp., 464 F.3d 1273, 1280 (11th Cir. 2006).
McCall v. Bank of America, N.A., No.
2:16-CV-184-WKW, 2016 WL 5402748, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Sep. 26,
2016). Plaintiff must therefore replead his complaint,
clearly stating which acts committed by which actors support
a litigant files a shotgun pleading, is represented by
counsel, and fails to request leave to amend, a district
court must sua sponte give him one chance to replead before
dismissing his case with prejudice on non-merits shotgun
pleading grounds.” Vibe Micro, Inc. v.
Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1296 (11th Cir. 2018).
“In the repleading order, the district court should
explain how the offending pleading violates the shotgun
pleading rule so that the party may properly avoid future
shotgun pleadings.” Id. Therefore, the
complaint will be dismissed without prejudice to give
Plaintiff an opportunity to refile according to the
instructions in this Order.
Because Plaintiff's complaint is due to be dismissed
on shotgun pleading grounds, Defendant's argument that
the complaint exceeds the scope of the EEOC charge is
motion to dismiss the complaint for exceeding the scope of
the EEOC charge is accordingly denied without prejudice to
reassert this or any other argument relevant to the amended
complaint in a subsequent motion to dismiss, or, if Defendant
presents materials outside the complaint, motion for summary
judgment. In reviewing an amended complaint, the court will
credit Plaintiff's EEOC charge, which describes the
“negative environment Dr. Keiley had created for Mormon
students and me, ” (Doc. # 1-1), in deciding whether
there is sufficient basis to say that Plaintiff's hostile
work environment claim can ...