United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVTNGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT
matter comes before the Court upon consideration of Defendant
Interim Healthcare Gulf Coast, Inc.'s Motion for More
Definite Statement (Doc. # 7), filed on March 29, 2018.
Plaintiff Andreena Terry filed a response in opposition on
April 12, 2018. (Doc. # 14). For the following reasons, the
Court denies the Motion.
began working for Interim Healthcare as a Certified Medical
Coder in March of 2014. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 9). Beginning in
2016, Terry was able to work from home. (Id. at
¶ 12). Terry was given consistent pay increases and
trained on multiple job tasks. (Id. at ¶ 10,
11). In September of 2017, Terry notified her supervisor that
she was pregnant and would need to take leave under the
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) beginning in March of
2018. (Id. at ¶ 13).
months following her pregnancy announcement, Terry's
position at Interim Healthcare changed. In early October of
2017, Terry was directed to train another employee to take
over Terry's coding responsibilities a few days a week,
despite that employee having no coding experience.
(Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15). Later in October of
2017, about a month after her pregnancy announcement, Terry
was told her hours were being dropped to 30 hours per week
and she would now be a part time employee. (Id. at
¶ 16). In late December of 2017, Terry was told she
needed to start reporting to work at the Clearwater office,
instead of working from home. (Id. at ¶ 17).
Terry asked to take the 30-hour a week position instead of
the Clearwater office appointment but was told that the only
alternate option was a 12-hour a week position. (Id.
at ¶ 18).
after telling Interim Healthcare in December 2017 that her
FMLA leave would start on February 15, 2018, the Vice
President, Thomas Spellissy, “proposed” that
Terry would be terminated at the end of December of 2017.
(Id. at ¶ 20). Terry declined this proposal and
reported for work in Clearwater on January 2, 2018, as
previously instructed. (Id. at ¶ 21). On
January 3, 2018, Terry was “permanently laid off”
from her job at Interim Healthcare. (Id. at ¶
Terry filed the instant action on February 13, 2018.
(Id.) The Complaint asserts two claims: FMLA
interference (Count 1) and FMLA retaliation (Count 2).
Interim Healthcare then filed the pending Motion, which
requests a more definite statement of Terry's claims and
argues the Complaint is a shotgun pleading. (Doc. # 7).
complaint violates either Rule 8(a)(2) or Rule 10(b), it is
“often disparagingly referred to as [a] ‘shotgun
pleading.'” Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty.
Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir.
2015). “A defendant served with a shotgun complaint
should move the district court to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or for a more definite statement
pursuant to Rule 12(e) on the ground that the complaint
provides it with insufficient notice to enable it to file an
answer.” Paylor v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 748
F.3d 1117, 1126-27 (11th Cir. 2014) (footnotes omitted).
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-T-23-TBM, 2010 WL 5162024, at *2 (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.”
Betencourt 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.
Eleventh Circuit has “identified four rough types or
categories of shotgun pleadings”: (1) “a
complaint containing multiple counts where each count adopts
the allegations of all preceding counts . . .”; (2) a
complaint that is “replete with conclusory, vague, and
immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular
cause of action”; (3) a complaint that does “not
separat[e] into a different count each cause of action or
claim for relief”; and (4) a complaint that
“assert[s] multiple claims against multiple defendants
without specifying which of the defendants are responsible
for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the
claim is brought against.” Weiland, 792 F.3d
Complaint does not fall within any of the four categories of
shotgun pleadings. First, while the Complaint contains two
counts, Count 2 does not adopt the allegations of Count 1.
Interim Healthcare's Motion claims that the Complaint
constitutes a shotgun pleading because it “relies on
incorporation of the same set of allegations to support two
distinct claims.” (Doc. # 7 at 3). But Terry has
re-alleged only the factual allegations and does not
reincorporate the preceding counts. (Doc. # 2 at ¶¶
23, 29). The Eleventh Circuit has clarified that a complaint
is likely a shotgun pleading when it “contains several
counts, each one incorporating by reference the allegations
of its predecessors [i.e., predecessor counts].”
Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1324. This type of pleading
leads “to a situation where most of the counts (i.e.,
all but the first) contain irrelevant factual allegations and
legal conclusions.” Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C.
v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295
(11th Cir. 2002). A complaint that re-alleges just the
factual allegations and does not re-allege each count, like
the Complaint at issue, is different from a typical shotgun
pleading and should be treated as such. Weiland, 792
F.3d at 1324(holding that a complaint was not a shotgun
pleading, in part because “[t]he allegations of each
count are not rolled into every successive count on down the
Terry's claims of FMLA interference and retaliation
require similar facts and thus can be jointly supported.
Newman v. Crom Corp, No. 1:12cv126, 2012 WL 353658,
at *1 (N.D. Fla. Aug. 15, 2012)(allowing plaintiff to proceed
on theories of FMLA interference and retaliation with one set
of allegations). To state a claim for interference under the
FMLA, an employee must “demonstrate by a preponderance
of the evidence that [she] was entitled to the benefit
denied.” Strickland v. Water Works and Sewer Bd. of
City of Birmingham, 239 F.3d 1199, 1206-07 (11th Cir.
2001). To state a claim for retaliation under the FMLA,
“an employee must allege that (1) [she] engaged in
statutorily protected activity; (2) [she] suffered an adverse
employment decision; and (3) the decision was causally
related to the protected activity.” Id. at
has alleged that she informed Interim Healthcare of her
pregnancy and intent to take leave under the FMLA, she
suffered adverse employment decisions (i.e., having her
hours, work, and location changed), and the changes in her
employment and ultimate termination occurred after her
pregnancy announcement. (Doc. # 2 at ¶¶ 13-22).
These allegations “are sufficient to state a claim for
interference and retaliation under the FMLA.”
Harnouss v. Qualified Professional Home Health Services,
Inc., No. 15-23327, 2015 WL 12778789 at *2 (S.D. Fla.
Sept. 14, 2015). A typical shotgun complaint makes it
“virtually impossible to know which allegations of fact
are intended to support which claim(s) for relief.”
Anderson v. District Bd. of Trustees of Cent. Florida
Community College, 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir. 1996).
That is not the case here. Because claims of interference ...