United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
L. Christensen, United States District Court Chief Judge.
the Court is Plaintiff Rosalinda Cintron's
("Cintron") Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses.
(Doc. 13.) For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the
motion in part and denies the motion in part.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
initiated her Complaint on August 10, 2017, and then filed an
Amended Complaint on September 8, 2017. Cintron alleges that
Defendants discriminated against her at her workplace due to
her disability. Cintron began working for Title Financial in
2005. She suffered a stroke in January 2014 and took leave
from work. When she returned, Cintron alleges that she was
harassed and fellow employees believed she was faking her
stroke and her ability to perform her job functions. The
harassment allegedly culminated with in-patient
hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder.
answered the Complaint, asserting twenty-one affirmative
defenses. (Doc. 8 at 11-12.) Cintron filed the present
motion, arguing that the affirmative defenses should be
stricken because they do not meet the Twombly and
Iqbal pleading requirement. (Docs. 13; 14 at 5.)
Defendants oppose the motion, urging the Court to adopt the
"fair notice" pleading standard recognized by the
Pleading Sufficiency of Affirmative Defenses
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a "court may
strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any
redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous
matter." "[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to
strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that
must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with
those issues prior to trial.. .." Sidney-Vinstein v.
A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983).
While district courts possess consideration discretion in
disposing of Rule 12(f) motions to strike, such motions are
regarded with disfavor because they are often used as
delaying tactics and because of the limited importance of
pleadings in federal practice. 5C Charles Alan Wright, Arthur
R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane et al., Federal Practice and
Procedure § 1392 (3d ed.); see also Benham v. Am.
Servicing Co., No. C 09-01099 JSW, 2009 WL 4456386, at
*8 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 30, 2009). Rule 8 requires a response to a
pleading to include defenses, admissions, and denials.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b), (c). "[A] party must affirmatively
state any avoidance or affirmative defense" in order to
avoid waiver. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c).
Ninth Circuit has directed courts to evaluate the pleading
sufficiency of affirmative defenses under the "fair
notice" standard. Simmons v. Navajo Cty.,
Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1023 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Wyshakv. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th
Cir. 1979), also citing In re Gayle Sterten, 546
F.3d 278, 285 (3d Cir.2008) (noting that "the proper
focus of our inquiry" is whether framing the defense as
a denial of an allegation "specifically deprived [the
plaintiff] of an opportunity to rebut that defense or to
alter her litigation strategy accordingly")). Therefore,
an affirmative defense need only give the plaintiff fair
notice of the defense. Wyshak, 607 F.2d at 827.
motion, Cintron contends that all twenty of Defendants'
affirmative defenses are pled insufficiently. (Doc. 14 at
11-18.) Cintron requests this Court to apply the
reinterpreted pleading standards under the Supreme
Court's holdings in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) to affirmative defenses.
(See id. at 8-11.) Although the Ninth Circuit has
not yet adopted the Twombly I Iqbal pleading
standard for affirmative defenses, Cintron cites to several
district courts that have done so. (Doc. 14 at 9- 10.)
Notably, however, no court in the District of Montana has
adopted this standard.
response, Defendants direct the Court to many Ninth Circuit
cases that have reiterated the "fair notice"
standard applies to affirmative defenses- particularly cases
following the United States Supreme Court's decisions in
Twombly and Iqbal (Doc. 17 at 7 (citing
Simmons, 609 F.3d at 1023 (2010 case citing
"fair notice" standard from Wyshak); Garner v.
Pritzker, 609 Fed.Appx. 433, 434 (9th Cir. 2015)
(reciting "fair notice" standard); Patsystems
(NA) Ltd. Liab. Co. v. TrendExch, Inc., 695 Fed.Appx.
206 (9th Cir. 2017) (June 2, 2017 opinion citing with
approval the standard set forth in Simmons).) In any
case, it is clear that this point is unresolved in the Ninth
further direction, this Court declines to extend the
Twombly/Iqbal pleading standards to affirmative
defenses. Several considerations inform this conclusion. Most
significantly, the Ninth Circuit has continued to recognize
the "fair notice" standard of affirmative defense
pleading even after Twombly and Iqbal. See
Simmons, 609 F.3d 1011; Schutte & Koerting, Inc.
v. Swett & Crawford, 298 Fed.Appx. 613, 615 (9th
Cir. 2008). Moreover, the Supreme Court's analysis in
Twombly and Iqbal is limited to pleadings
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). 550 U.S. at
555, 556 U.S. at 677-678. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2) requires that the party stating a claim for relief
provide "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule
8(c), on the other hand, only requires a responding party to
"affirmatively state" its affirmative defenses.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c). Therefore, applying the plausibility
standard to affirmative defenses, without clear controlling
authority from the Ninth Circuit, would broaden the scope of
specific federal pleading standards.
these reasons, this Court will review the sufficiency of
Defendants' affirmative defenses under the ...