United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to
Strike Various Affirmative Defenses (Doc. 18) and
Defendant's Response in Opposition (Doc. 19). Upon
review, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's motion
should be granted in part.
Jose Mandujano alleges that Defendant Freight Handlers, Inc.
violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by
failing to pay him overtime wages. In response to
Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1), Defendant filed its
Answer (Doc. 9) asserting thirteen affirmative defenses.
Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant motion, seeking to
strike nine of those defenses and Defendant's request for
affirmative defense is a defense that “requires
judgment for the defendant even if the plaintiff can prove
his case by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Wright v. Southland Corp., 187 F.3d 1287, 1303 (11th
Cir.1999). A defendant who pleads affirmative defenses in its
answer must state each defense “in short and plain
terms.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1). “The court may
strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any
redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous
matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). However, motions to strike
“are generally disfavored and will usually be denied
unless it is clear the [affirmative defense] sought to be
stricken is insufficient as a matter of law” or
“has no possible relation to the controversy and may
cause prejudice to one of the parties.” Nobles v.
Convergent Healthcare Recoveries, Inc., No.
8:15-CV-1745-T-30MAP, 2015 WL 5098877, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Aug.
31, 2015) (internal citations omitted).
defense that simply points out a defect or lack of evidence
in a plaintiff's case is not an affirmative defense.
See In re Rawson Food Service, Inc., 846 F.2d 1343,
1349 (11th Cir. 1988). When a specific denial is labeled as
an affirmative defense, a court will generally treat the
defense as a denial instead of striking it.
Traderplanet.com, LLC v. Found. for the Study of Cycles,
Inc., No. 8:13-CV-3120-T-30TBM, 2014 WL 12620823, at *1
(M.D. Fla. May 22, 2014) (internal citation omitted).
asks the Court to strike nine of Defendant's affirmative
defenses: Defendant's First Affirmative Defense (Failure
to State a Claim), Fourth Affirmative Defense (Good Faith),
Fifth Affirmative Defense (Good Faith Reliance on Legal
Authority), Seventh Affirmative Defense (Laches and/or
Unclean Hands), Eighth Affirmative Defense (Estoppel), Ninth
Affirmative Defense (Setoff), Tenth Affirmative Defense
(Accord and Satisfaction), Eleventh Affirmative Defense
(Preliminary and Postliminary Activities), and Thirteenth
Affirmative Defense (Failure to Mitigate Damages). Defendant
agrees to strike the Tenth and Thirteenth Affirmative
Defenses, as well as the laches portion of the Seventh
argues that the Court should strike the First, Fourth, Fifth,
Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Affirmative Defenses because
they fail to comply with Rule 8's pleading standard. The
Court disagrees. The First Affirmative Defense is a specific
denial that Defendant mislabelled as an affirmative defense,
so the Court will treat this as a denial rather than striking
it. The Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Defenses
are written in “short and plain terms” and
provide Plaintiff fair notice of the nature of the defenses
Defendant plans to rely on. In addition, the facts related to
these defenses “can be easily ferreted out during
discovery.” Traderplanet.com, 2014 WL
12620823, at *2. The Court will not strike these defenses
because they may be relevant to Plaintiff's FLSA claim
and will not unduly prejudice Plaintiff.
next argues that the Court should strike the Eighth
Affirmative Defense because it is not a valid defense to an
FLSA claim. The Eighth Affirmative Defense states that
“Plaintiff is estopped from seeking payment for unpaid
wages to the extent he failed to raise contemporaneous
objections to his wages and any official records of hours
worked versus what he purports to actually have
worked.” The FLSA does not require a plaintiff to
provide notice of an alleged wage violation prior to bringing
suit. In addition, “federal courts have [generally]
rejected equitable estoppel as an affirmative defense to an
FLSA action, even where an employee is required to, but fails
to, record overtime hours worked.” Morrison v.
Exec. Aircraft Refinishing, Inc., 434 F.Supp.2d 1314,
1319 (S.D. Fla. 2005) (internal citations omitted);
accord Hansen v. ABC Liquors, Inc., No.
3:09-CV-966-J- 34MCR, 2009 WL 3790447, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Nov.
9, 2009) (internal citations omitted). Although there is some
case law to suggest that the Court can allow an estoppel
defense under very limited circumstances, Defendant does not
allege facts sufficient for the Court to infer that estoppel
is applicable in this case. Compare Doc. 9 with
Brumbelow v. Quality Mills, Inc., 462 F.2d 1324, 1327
(5th Cir.1972) (holding that an employee who purposefully
understated her hours so that her company would not fire her
for failing to meet its minimum production norms was estopped
from recovering compensation for the extra hours she worked).
Thus, the Court will strike this defense. If Defendant later
uncovers evidence to warrant the application of an estoppel
defense, it may move to amend its pleading at that time.
Plaintiff argues that the Court should strike Defendant's
request for attorney's fees because the FLSA does not
provide fees to prevailing defendants. While that is true, a
defendant may still recover its fees in an FLSA case when the
plaintiff acted in bad faith. Kreager v. Solomon &
Flanagan, P.A., 775 F.2d 1541, 1544 (11th Cir. 1985).
Consequently, courts in this district routinely deny motions
to strike these prayers for relief. See, e.g., Aguilar v.
Abc Supply Co., No. 2:10-CV-141FTM36SPC, 2010 WL
2243753, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 4, 2010); Hansen,
2009 WL 3790447, at *4.
therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:
Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Various Affirmative Defenses
(Doc. 18) is granted in part.
Court hereby strikes the portion of Defendant's Seventh
Affirmative Defense that relates to laches and the entirety
of its Eighth, Tenth, and Thirteenth ...