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Allen v. MK Centennial Maritime B.V.

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

January 24, 2018

PRISCILLA ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MK CENTENNIAL MARITIME B.V., ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff Priscilla Allen's Motion to Strike Defendants' Affirmative Defenses, or Alternatively, for More Definite Statement (Doc. # 25), which was filed on January 4, 2018. Defendants MK Centennial Maritime B.V. and MMS Co., Inc. filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion (Doc. # 26) on January 17, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion with respect to the sixth and seventh Defenses. The Motion is otherwise denied.

         I. Background

         After allegedly sustaining personal injuries in a boating accident, Plaintiff filed a state court action against Defendants. After being served with the Amended Complaint on September 5, 2017, Defendants removed the case on October 5, 2017, on the basis of admiralty jurisdiction. (Doc. # 1). Defendants separately filed their Answers and Affirmative Defenses (Doc. ## 21, 21) on December 4, 2017. On January 4, 2018, Plaintiff moved to strike Defendants' second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh Defenses. To summarize, the second, third, and fourth Defenses address comparative fault. The sixth Defense seeks a set-off for amounts collected from collateral sources. And, the seventh Defense asserts that, in maritime cases, prejudgment interest on non-economic losses is prohibited.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Strike

         Affirmative defenses are subject to the general pleading requirements of Rule 8. Rule 8(b)(1)(A), Fed. R. Civ. P., requires that a party "state in short plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it." Affirmative defenses are also evaluated against the touchstone of Rule 12(f), Fed. R. Civ. P., which states, "The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Although the Court has broad discretion in ruling on a motion to strike, such motions are disfavored due to their “drastic nature.” Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v. M/Y Anastasia, No. 95-cv-60498/RV, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15595, at *10 (N.D. Fla. Jan. 30, 1997).

         Thus, “[a]n affirmative defense will only be stricken . . . if the defense is ‘insufficient as a matter of law.'” Microsoft Corp. v. Jesse's Computers & Repair, Inc., 211 F.R.D. 681, 683 (M.D. Fla. 2002)(citation omitted). An affirmative “defense is insufficient as a matter of law only if: (1) on the face of the pleadings, it is patently frivolous, or (2) it is clearly invalid as a matter of law.” Id. “To the extent that a defense puts into issue relevant and substantial legal and factual questions, it is ‘sufficient' and may survive a motion to strike, particularly when there is no showing of prejudice to the movant.” Reyher v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 881 F.Supp. 574, 576 (M.D. Fla. 1995)(citation omitted).

         B. Motion for a More Definite Statement

         Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, “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. The motion . . . must point out the defects complained of and the details desired.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “A Rule 12(e) motion is appropriate if the pleading is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably respond, even with a simple denial, in good faith, without prejudice to itself.” Ramirez v. FBI, No. 8:10-cv-1819-T23TBM, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132271, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 14, 2010).

         “In considering such a motion, the Court should be mindful of the liberal pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, pursuant to which a short and plain statement of the claim will suffice.” Betancourt v. Marine Cargo Mgmt., Inc., 930 F.Supp. 606, 608 (S.D. Fla. 1996). Such a motion is “intended to provide a remedy for an unintelligible pleading, rather than a vehicle for obtaining greater detail.” Aventura Cable Corp. v. Rifkin/Narragansett S. Fla. CATV Ltd. P'ship, 941 F.Supp. 1189, 1195 (S.D. Fla. 1996).

         III. Analysis

         A true affirmative defense is “one that admits to the complaint, but avoids liability, wholly, or partly, by new allegations of excuse, justification or other negating matters.” Bluewater Trading, LLC v. Willmar USA, Inc., No. 07-cv-61284, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108191, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 9, 2008). Rule 8(c)(1) includes a list of affirmative defenses, such as contributory negligence, assumption of risk, estoppel, laches, res judicata, and waiver.

         Some of the Defenses at issue are not true affirmative defenses. That is, they do not admit the allegations of the Amended Complaint but avoid liability based upon some negating factor. Nevertheless, the Court is not inclined to strike ...


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