United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
CS BUSINESS SYSTEMS, INC., JAMES L. SHELTON, VIRGINIA L. SHELTON, BRAD HECKENBERG, LANA C. HECKENBERG, PJS RENTAL, LLC, WON Y. SHIN TRUST, WON Y. SHIN, BART SUTHERIN, KATHRYN SUTHERIN and ITZ GROUP, LLC, a foreign for-profit corporation Plaintiffs,
DWIGHT C. SCHAR, PAUL E. SIMONSON, DCS INVESTMENTS HOLDINGS GP, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS I, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS II, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS III, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS IV, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS IV-A, LLC, DCS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS V, LLC, BELLA COLLINA PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOC., INC., DAVID BURMAN, AEGIS COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS, INC., RANDALL F. GREENE, KEITH CLARKE, PAUL LEBREUX, RICHARD C. ARRIGHI, JAMES D. RYAN, MICHAEL J. RYAN, THE RYAN LAW GROUP, LLC, CULLEN D'AMBROSIO, ROCKING RED H, LLC, RICKY L. SCHARICH and BELLA COLLINA TOWERS, LLC Defendants.
R. LAMMENS United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a motion for a more definite statement. (Doc.
8). It is brought (or at least joined (Docs. 21, 25)) by all
of the Defendants and Plaintiffs have now responded (Docs.
29- 31). In sum, Defendants ask the Court to order Plaintiffs
to file a new pleading, contending that the current Complaint
(Doc. 1) is either a quintessential shotgun pleading or is
otherwise so unwieldy that it constitutes a de facto
shotgun pleading that renders a response impossible.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e), “[a] party may
move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a
responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or
ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
response.” A movant proceeding under 12(e) “must
point out the defects complained of and the details
desired.” Fed. R. Civ. P 12(e). Generally speaking,
such motions are disfavored in this district “in view
of the liberal pleading and discovery requirements set forth
in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” BB In
Tech. Co. v. JAF, LLC, 242 F.R.D. 632, 640 (S.D. Fla.
2007); Pesci v. Budz, No. 2:10-CV-428-FTM-38, 2015
WL 1349711, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 25, 2015) (“Rule
12(e) motions are disfavored and granted only
context of a Rule 12(e) request that a complaint be re-plead,
when a complaint “gives the defendants fair notice of
the nature and basis of the claims as well as a general
indication of the type of litigation involved, ” the
motion for a more definite statement will be denied.
Decker v. Cty., No. 5:15-CV-24-OC-30PRL, 2015 WL
12844302, at *3 (M.D. Fla. May 19, 2015). In other words,
“[t]he basis for granting a motion for more definite
statement is unintelligibility, not lack of detail; as long
as the defendant is able to respond, even if only with simple
denial, in good faith, without prejudice, the complaint is
deemed sufficient.” S.E.C. v. Digital Lightwave,
Inc., 196 F.R.D. 698, 700 (M.D. Fla. 2000). With all of
that said, I note that there is certainly a context in which
Rule 12(e) motions are favored: courts prefer that a
defendant seek a more definite statement-in lieu of a
responsive pleading-when faced with a “shotgun”
complaint. Anderson v. Dist. Bd. of Trustees of Cent.
Florida Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir. 1996);
Nehrer v. Bank of Am., N.A., No.
6:11-CV-50-ORL-31DAB, 2011 WL 1883041, at *2 (M.D. Fla. May
17, 2011); Judge Emmett Ripley Cox, Thirty-Two Years on
the Federal Bench: Some Things I Have Learned, 66 Fla.
L. Rev. 1685, 1693 (2014) (“[T]he Federal Rules provide
an effective weapon in Federal Rule 12(e) to combat bad
instant action arises from a real estate development located
in Lake County known as Bella Collina. There are over ten
Plaintiffs and over twenty named Defendants. I note that some
of the Defendants represent that they are already familiar
with some of the Plaintiffs and their counsel, given previous
state-court proceedings that involved Bella Collina.
See (Doc. 8 at p.4) (stating that Plaintiffs seek to
litigate here previously adjudicated or settled matters);
(Doc. 21 at p.3) (same).
Complaint at issue here spans ninety-one pages, includes over
five-hundred paragraphs, and attempts to state eighteen
claims for relief. The claims range from racketeering to
breach of contract. To be sure, Defendants' plight is
certainly sympathetic. They are faced with a
ninety-one-page-behemoth-like Complaint that forces even the
most interested reader to pause and re-read it several times.
But based on the motion before me, I am compelled to deny
this 12(e) request for the following reasons.
Defendants argue that the Complaint is a shotgun pleading
because it incorporates each and every of the four-hundred
and eight factual allegations into each and every of the
eighteen counts (or as the Complaint calls them,
“claims”). (Doc. 8 at pp.1, 5-6). Certainly, one
form of a quintessential shotgun pleading is when the
complaint re-alleges each and every count into the
subsequent counts, see Anderson, 77 F.3d at 366; but
this Complaint does not do that and thus this case is
distinguishable from Nehrer, upon which Defendants
rely. See Nehrer, 2011 WL 1883041 at *1 (“Each
of the claims begins with a sentence incorporating every
single sentence that preceded it. The Complaint is a
quintessential shotgun pleading.”); see also Kassem
v. Martin, No. 5:15-CV-623-OC-30PRL, 2016 WL 3079952, at
*1 (M.D. Fla. June 1, 2016) (declining to find a complaint a
shot gun pleading when “it incorporate[d] the
sixty-five general allegations from the beginning of the
complaint into each count, [but did] not incorporate
allegations of preceding counts into each count”).
Notably, Defendants do not claim that the counts themselves
fail to list the facts that support them-indeed, they do not
point to even one particular purportedly defective count.
Compare Hepp v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., No.
8:13-CV-02836-EAK, 2014 WL 3865389, at *7 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 5,
2014) (declining to find a shotgun pleading when the
complaint re-alleged and incorporated all of the general
allegations in every count but “each count [wa]s
supported by additional particular facts”) with Le
Macaron, LLC v. Le Macaron Dev. LLC, No.
8:16-CV-918-17TGW, 2016 WL 6211718, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 24,
2016) (ordering the plaintiffs to file a more definite
complaint and directing them to “either include all
necessary facts within [the count at issue] or Plaintiffs
shall selectively incorporate specific paragraph numbers by
failure to point to any specific count that is purportedly so
defective as to render a response impossible leads me to
Defendants' other basis for their 12(e) motion:
Defendants argue that the Complaint contains so many
conclusory, irrelevant, implausible, and unwieldy factual
allegations that it is impossible to respond to
Plaintiffs' claims (even if the Complaint is not
technically at shotgun pleading). (Doc. 8 at pp.2, 4, 6; Doc.
21 at pp.1-3). Admittedly, Defendants anecdotally identify
facts that are allegedly irrelevant to the claims at hand
(Doc. 8 at p.6; Doc. 21 at p.2-3), yet they do not explain
how a simple denial of such irrelevant facts would be
insufficient (and it is notable that Defendants have not
moved to strike any pleading under Rule 12(f) as redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous). They instead claim
that the inclusion of these facts forces the Court (and
Defendants) to “pars[e] through the allegations for
support for the individual claims.” (Doc. 8 at p.1).
This claim, however, stops short of submitting that the
counts themselves fail to give Defendants notice of the facts
supporting them; in other words, Defendants do not assert
that the counts are only supported by incorporated
yet irrelevant factual allegations (as was apparently the
case in Lawrie v. Ginn Dev. Co., LLC, No.
3:09-CV-446-J-32JBT, 2014 WL 4788067, at *9 (M.D. Fla. Sept.
19, 2014), aff'd, 656 F. App'x 464 (11th
Cir. 2016), which they cite in support of their motion).
Defendants also argue that the Complaint fails to suffice
under Rules 8 and 10. (Doc. 8 at pp.6-7). As to Rule 10,
Defendants provide no example of any particular paragraph
that purportedly is not limited to a single set of
circumstances, at least as far as practicality would allow.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b). And as to Rule 8, Defendants appear to
argue that by incorporating all of the factual allegations,
which contain supposed irrelevancies, into the counts
Plaintiffs have rendered the Complaint “the exact
opposite of ‘short and plain.'” (Doc. 8 at
p.6). But this theory falls short of asserting that the
counts themselves do not rectify this purportedly problematic
incorporation of the factual allegations.
the motion for a more definite statement (Doc. 8) is DENIED.
The unopposed motion to file a motion to dismiss in excess of
twenty-five (but no more than fifty) pages (Doc. 9) is
GRANTED. Defendants may ...