United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
DAVID THOMPSON, as owner of the 1994 Sea Ray Express 44, HIN#SERP2089G394, for exoneration from or limitation of liability Petitioner,
ACE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
MIRANDO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon review of Petitioner's
Motion to Strike Notice of Filing Claim and Answer to
Petition (“Motion to Strike”) by Ace American
Insurance Company (“Ace”) (Doc. 17) and
Petitioner's Motion for Final Default Judgment Against
All Persons and Entities (“Motion for Default
Judgment”) (Doc. 18), both filed on August 25, 2017;
and Ace's Response in Opposition to Petitioner's
Motion to Strike, or in the Alternative, Motion for
Enlargement of Time (Doc. 19) filed on August 28, 2017.
Having reviewed the motions and relevant pleadings, the Court
finds that Petitioner's Motion to Strike (Doc. 17) is due
to be granted in part with leave for Ace to amend its Notice
of Filing Claim Responsive to the Order Granting Monition
(“Claim”) and, if necessary, Answer (Docs. 19,
20); Petitioner's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 18)
is due to be denied; and Plaintiff's Motion for
Enlargement of Time (Doc. 19) is due to be granted.
30, 2017 Petitioner filed a Verified Petition for Exoneration
from or Limitation of Liability. Doc. 1. Petitioner, David
Thompson, as owner of the 1994 Sea Ray Express,
HIN#SERP2089G394, sought exoneration from or limitation of
liability to the value of his interest in the vessel under
the Shipowners Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §
30501 et seq. Id. at 1-2. On July 21, 2017
the Court granted Petitioner's Motion (Doc. 8), and
issued an Order of Limitation Injunction (Doc. 9), Order
Approving Petitioner's Security (Doc. 10), and Order on
Monition (Doc. 11). The Order on Monition required all
persons asserting claims with respect to the Petitioner's
Verified Complaint to file their claims with the Court within
thirty (30) days of the Order. Doc. 11 at 1. Thus, the
deadline to timely file a claim was Monday, August 21,
days after the expiration of the deadline to timely file a
claim, Ace filed an Answer (Doc. 14) and Claim (Doc. 15). The
following day, Petitioner filed his Motion to Strike (Doc.
17) and Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 18).
Motion to Strike
Petitioner's Motion to Strike, Petitioner alleges that
the Answer and Claim not only were untimely, but insufficient
in that they lack any factual support or basis. Doc. 17
¶¶ 7-8. Ace opposes the motion, although it agrees
that due to a clerical error, its answer was untimely. Doc.
19 ¶ 3.
courts have broad discretion in disposing of motions to
strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).” Microsoft
Corp. v. Jesse's Computers & Repair, Inc., 211
F.R.D. 681, 683 (M.D. Fla. 2002) (internal citations
omitted). Striking a pleading, however, is a “drastic
remedy, which is disfavored by the courts.” Hansen
v. ABC Liquors, Inc., No. 3:09-cv-966-J-34MCR, 2009 WL
3790447, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 9, 2009). Pursuant to Rule
12(f), the Court “may strike from a pleading an
insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).
The court generally does not exercise its discretion to
strike under Rule 12(f) “unless the matter sought to be
omitted has no possible relationship to the controversy, may
confuse the issues, or otherwise prejudice a party.”
Reyher v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 881 F.Supp.
574, 576 (M.D. Fla. 1995).
there is no insufficient defense as Petitioner acknowledges
that Ace is not asserting any affirmative defenses (Doc. 17
¶ 7), but rather is claiming damages related to the
incident that occurred in or about January 23, 2014 and is
the subject matter of the Petition. Docs. 1, 15. Petitioner
asserts, however, that Respondent's Claim was
insufficient under Rule F(5). See Fed. R. Civ. P.
F(5). Rule F(5) requires that “[e]ach claim shall
specify the facts upon which the claimant relies in support
of the claim, the items thereof, and the dates on which the
same accrued. If a claimant desires to contest either the
right to exoneration from or the right to limitation of
liability the claimant shall file and serve an answer to the
complaint.” Fed.R.Civ.P. F(5).
case, Ace filed and served an Answer to the complaint along
with its Claim. Docs. 14, 15. The Claim does nothing more
than state Ace's damages, and does not clarify the facts
upon which Ace relies. See Doc. 14; see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. F(5). Nor does the Answer provide
specific information regarding Ace's alleged damages and
the factual allegations supporting them; rather, it merely
responds to the allegations in Petitioner's complaint.
See Doc. 14; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. F(5).
As such, Ace has not satisfied the requirements of Rule F(5).
Accordingly, Petitioner's Motion to Strike is due to be
granted in part. The Court will, however, give Ace leave to
amend its Claim to comply with the requirements of Rule F(5),
and if necessary, its Answer, as discussed below.
Motion for Default Judgment and Respondent's Motion for
Enlargement of Time
addition to its Motion to Strike, Petitioner has filed a
Motion for Default Judgment. Doc. 18. In support of its
Motion, Petitioner states that as of the date of the Motion,
no claims compliant with Supplemental Rule F of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure had been filed. Id. at
¶ 5. In making this assertion, Petitioner relies on the
arguments advanced in its Motion to Strike. Id. at 2
n. 1. Ace opposes both motions and seeks an enlargement of
time for its untimely filing. Docs. 19, 20.
Plaintiff properly effected service pursuant to section Rule
F(4), “[c]ourts have a longstanding policy favoring
adjudication of lawsuits on the merits, thus defaults are
disfavored.” Bateh v. Colquett D. Trucking,
Inc., 2011 WL 4501385, *1 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (citing
Kilpatrick v. Town of Davie, 2008 WL 3851588 (S.D.
Fla. 2008). Simply because Ace failed to timely respond to
the complaint, it does not show an intentional or reckless
disregard for judicial proceedings. See Id. Here,
Ace filed its Answer and Claim three days after the
Court's deadline and before Petitioner filed its motions.
Docs. 14, 15. Petitioner will not be prejudiced by the
minimal delay as this case is still in the early stages of
litigation, and the deadline imposed by the Court was not
jurisdictional in nature. See Fed. R. Civ. P. F(4).
Rule F(4) stipulates that the Court “may enlarge the
time within which claims may be filed” for good cause.
Fed.R.Civ.P. F(4). This, in conjunction with Rule 6(b)(1)(B),
allows the Court discretion to grant Ace an extension of time
on motion made after the time has expired if it shows both
good cause and excusable neglect. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1), F(4).
Here, the Court finds Ace has shown good cause for an
extension, as well as excusable neglect because Ace's
delay was due to a clerical error. Doc. 19 ...