United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
MIRANDO, United States Magistrate Judge
matter comes before the Court upon review of Plaintiffs'
Motion to Strike Defendant National Credit System's
(“National”) Affirmative Defenses and
National's response in opposition. Docs. 44, 48. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court finds Plaintiffs'
motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
11, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Verified Complaint and Demand
for Jury Trial against National under the Fair Credit Reporting
Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et
seq., the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et
seq., and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act
(“FCCPA”), Fla. Stat. § 559.55, et
seq. According to the Verified Complaint, Plaintiffs
ended a lease for a residential property in the Avana Cypress
Creek development (“Avana”), which was owned and
maintained by Greystar. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 9-11. Upon
termination of the lease, Plaintiffs owed fees totally
$627.30 to Avana and Greystar. Id. ¶ 11.
Greystar sent Plaintiffs letters dated August 1, 2016,
notifying them of their fee balance. Id.; see
also Doc. 1-1 at 2, 4. Plaintiffs timely paid their
balance of $627.30, and on August 26, 2016, Greystar sent
Plaintiffs letters acknowledging their payments and
indicating Plaintiffs “had ‘fully satisfied'
the account balance.” Id. ¶ 12; see
also Doc. 1-2 at 2-3.
however, transferred the $627.30 debt to National, a debt
collector. Doc. 1 ¶ 13. National accordingly sent
letters to Plaintiffs regarding their debt and indicating the
information would be placed on Plaintiffs' credit history
with the three national credit bureaus if they did not timely
place the account on hold. Id.; see also
Doc. 1-3 at 2-3. Plaintiffs' credit reports from all
three national credit bureaus subsequently reported the debt
as “past due.” Doc. 1 ¶ 14. Thus, Plaintiffs
allege National violated the FDCPA and FCCPA by making false
representations that Plaintiffs owed $627.30 when they did
not. Id. ¶¶ 19, 22-46. Plaintiffs also
assert National violated the FCRA by either knowingly
reporting erroneous credit information or by consciously
avoiding knowing the credit information was inaccurate, by
failing to notify the credit bureaus that the debts were in
dispute and by improperly reinvestigating the disputed debt.
Id. ¶¶ 50-58. As a result of
National's alleged conduct, Plaintiffs claim they have
suffered various damages, including mental and emotional
suffering, fright, anguish, shock, nervousness, anxiety,
humiliation, depression and an inability to secure credit.
Id. ¶¶ 26, 32, 38, 44, 60-61.
filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Verified
Complaint on August 2, 2017 and its First Amended Answer and
Affirmative Defenses to Verified Complaint on September 26,
2017. Docs. 19, 41. Plaintiffs' present motion seeks to
strike all nine of National's affirmative defenses. Doc.
affirmative defense is generally a defense that, if
established, 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). Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may strike “an
insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Although courts
generally disfavor motions to strike, “[d]istrict
courts have broad discretion in disposing of motions to
strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).” Hansen v. ABC
Liquors, Inc., No. 3:09-CV-966-J-34MCR, 2009 WL 3790447,
at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 9, 2009); Microsoft Corp. v.
Jesse's Computers & Repair, Inc., 211 F.R.D.
681, 683 (M.D. Fla. 2002) (internal citations omitted). An
affirmative defense will be stricken if it is insufficient as
a matter of law because it is (1) “patently frivolous,
” or (2) “clearly invalid as a matter of
law.” Microsoft, 211 F.R.D. at 683. In
evaluating a motion to strike affirmative defenses,
“the court must treat all well pleaded facts as
admitted and cannot consider matters beyond the
defenses are subject to the general pleading requirements of
Rule 8(b)(1)(A), which requires a party to “state in
short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted
against it.” An affirmative defense must provide
“fair notice” of the nature of the defense and
indicate the plausible grounds upon which it rests.
Biller v. Cafe Luna of Naples, Inc., No.
2:14-CV-659-FTM, 2015 WL 1648888, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 13,
2015) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)); see also Merill v. Dyck-O'Neal,
Inc., No. 2:15-cv-232-FtM-38MRM, 2015 WL 4496101, at *1
(M.D. Fla. July 23, 2015). Conclusory allegations are
insufficient; an affirmative defense must contain more than
bare bones allegations to withstand a Rule 12(f) motion to
strike. Merrill, 2015 WL 4496101, at *1 (citing
Microsoft, 211 F.R.D. at 684). The Court will
address each of National's affirmative defenses in turn.
Failure to State a Claim
National's first affirmative defense states, “the
Verified Complaint fails to allege sufficient ultimate facts
to state a cause of action under the FCRA, the FDCPA or the
FCCPA.” Doc. 41 ¶ 107. Plaintiffs argue this must
be stricken because it does not state how Plaintiffs'
Verified Complaint is lacking such that it fails to state
claims, and failure to state a claim is not a proper
affirmative defense. Doc. 44 at 4. National responds this
defense has a relationship to the controversy such that
Plaintiffs are on notice of the nature of the defense. Doc.
48 at 5.
failure to state a claim is a proper affirmative defense, it
is not sufficiently pled in this case to provide Plaintiffs
or the Court with any factual support or basis for the
defense. See Merrill, 2015 WL 4496101, at *2 (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)) (striking defendant's affirmative
defense for failure to state a claim because it provided
neither opposing party nor the Court with any factual or
legal basis for the defense); F.D.I.C. v. Bayer, No.
2:13-cv-752-FtM-29DNF, 2015 WL 686952, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Feb.
18, 2015) (same). Plaintiffs' motion to strike the first
affirmative defense will therefore be granted without
prejudice and with leave for National to amend the defense.
Compliance with the FCRA and Failure to Allege Facts
Regarding National's Knowledge and Involvement
National's second affirmative defense alleges it
“accurately recorded and reported credit information
pertaining to the Plaintiffs, ” and National
“reasonably investigated” any disputes in
compliance with the FCRA. Doc. 41 ¶ 108. It also
contends Plaintiffs failed to allege facts or information
regarding National's knowledge or involvement.
Id. Plaintiffs contend this defense is “merely
a denial of the allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint that
[National's] conduct was in violation of the FCRA,
specifically ¶¶ ...