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Contreras v. The City of Hanceville Alabama

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

May 3, 2019

MANUEL CONTRERAS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF HANCEVILLE ALABAMA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LILES C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an employment discrimination case filed pursuant to Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Doc. 17). This cause is before the Court on Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion to Strike (Doc. 19), and Motion for More Definite Statement (Doc. 20) pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6), 12(e), and 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff filed responses to defendant's motions on March 6, 2019. (Docs. 28 & 29). Defendant replied on March 15, 2019. (Docs. 30 & 31). The motions are now ripe for review. Upon review and for the reasons stated herein, the court concludes that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion to Strike (Doc. 19) is hereby granted as to the motion to strike and Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement (Doc. 20) is granted.

         I. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) - Dismissal for Failure To State A Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule must be read together with Rule 8(a), which requires that a pleading contain only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While that pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007), it does demand “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). Essentially, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the “liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule 8(a)(2).” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781 F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015).

         B. Rule 12(e) - More Definite Statement

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) permits a party to move for a more definite statement if the pleading “is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “[A] party may not use a Rule 12(e) motion to circumvent the short and plain statement requirement or to obtain information that can otherwise be obtained in discovery.” Harris v. Fisher-Price Inc., 2013 WL 9861461, at *1 (N.D. Ala. Oct. 24, 2013). See also MAO-MSO Recovery II LLC v. Infinity Prop. & Cas. Grp., No. 2:17-CV-00513-KOB, 2018 WL 1244498, at *5 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 9, 2018). This rule must be read together with Rule 8(a), which requires that a pleading contain only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While that pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007), it does demand “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         C. Rule 12(f) - Motion to Strike

         A motion to strike is appropriate under 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Id. However motions to strike factual allegations are disfavored and “will usually be denied unless the allegations have no possible relation to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of the parties.” Poague v. Huntsville Wholesale Furniture, No. 7:18-CV-00005-LSC, 2019 WL 718716 *6 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 20, 2019) (quoting Augustus v. Bd. of Pub. Instruction of Escambia Cty., Fla., 306 F.2d 862, 868 (5th Cir. 1962).

         D. Shotgun Pleading

         Our Circuit addressed the evolution and types of shotgun pleadings in Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty Sherriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir. 2015) stating:

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.

Id. at 1321-23. An assertion that a complaint is a shotgun pleading is based upon violations of Rule 8(a)(2), as mentioned above, and/or Rule 10(b) which provides:

(b) Paragraphs; Separate Statements. A party must state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances. A later pleading may refer by number to a paragraph in an earlier pleading. If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence-and ...

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