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Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Leigh Ann Pippin, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division

May 1, 2017

BROADCAST MUSIC, INC., WELSH WITCH MUSIC, FOREIGN IMPORTED PRODUCTIONS AND PUBLISHING INC., RICK'S MUSIC, INC., RED SEA SONGS, SONY/ATV SONGS, LLC, R AND R NOMAD PUBLISHING COMPANY, 4U2ASKY ENTERTAINMENT INC. and THE LUMINEERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEIGH ANN PIPPIN, LLC and LEIGH ANN PIPPIN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMZ'S S. MOODY. JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike (Doc. 14) Defendants' Answer (Doc. 13). Defendants failed to respond to the Motion, and the Court ordered the Defendants to show cause why the Court should not consider the Motion without a response from Defendants. Defendants responded to the Order to show cause on April 27, 2017 (Doc. 18), but did not respond to Plaintiffs' Motion. Having considered the Motion, Defendants' response to the Order to Show Cause, and the relevant law, the Court concludes Plaintiffs' Motion should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Leigh Ann Pippin is the managing member of Leigh Ann Pippin, LLC, which operates 1884 Restaurant and Bar in Eustis, Florida. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have been in repeated violation of the Copyright Act for not buying the necessary licenses to play music from Plaintiff “BMI's Repertoire.” (Doc. 1, ¶3). After allegedly reaching out to Defendants more than 75 times and sending cease and desist notices, Plaintiffs allege they were forced to bring this lawsuit for multiple claims of willful copyright infringement.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs sued Defendants on February 13, 2017, for eight claims of copyright infringement in a single-count Complaint (Doc. 1). Defendant Leigh Ann Pippin, proceeding pro se, filed an Answer (Doc. 13) on March 17, 2017, on behalf of herself and Leigh Ann Pippin, LLC. The Answer is one page and fails to respond to the individual allegations in the Complaint. The Answer places the blame for the alleged copyright infringement on independent contractors Defendants hired, and generally denies having committed any violations. Plaintiffs now argue the Answer must be stricken for two reasons, and the Court agrees with both.

         First, Defendant Leigh Ann Pippin, LLC is not permitted to proceed without counsel. Palazzo v. Gulf Oil Corp., 764 F.2d 1381, 1385 (11th Cir. 1985); Energy Lighting Mgmt., LLC v. Kinder, 363 F.Supp.2d 1331, 1332 (M.D.Fla.2005); FTC v. RCA Credit Servs., LLC, 2010 WL 2927688, at *1 n. 4 (M.D.Fla. July 21, 2010). The Court explained this in its Order to Show Cause, and Defendants' only response was that it cannot afford counsel. While the Court is sympathetic to the position in which this places Defendant, the Court cannot re-write the law to allow an LLC to defend an action unrepresented by counsel. So the Answer must be stricken as to Defendant Leigh Ann Pippin, LLC.

         Second, the Answer must also be stricken as to Leigh Ann Pippin individually because it fails to comport with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). While pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard and are to be liberally construed, Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998); litigants appearing pro se must adhere to the procedural requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as well as the Local Rules for the Middle District of Florida. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         Defendants' Answer fails to comport with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10. Rule 8 provides as follows:

(b) Defenses; Admissions and Denials.
(1) In General. In responding to a pleading, a party must:
(A) state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it; and
(B) admit or deny the allegations asserted against it by an ...

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