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Navtech U.S. Surveyors USSA Inc. v. Boat/U.S. Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

September 11, 2019

NAVTECH U.S. SURVEYORS USSA INC. and NAVTECH U.S. CAPTAIN U.S. SURVEYORS LLC, a Florida corporation, as successor to Navtech U.S. Captain U.S. Surveyors, Inc. Plaintiffs,
v.
BOAT/U.S. INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERI POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint With Prejudice (Doc. 30), and Plaintiffs Navtech U.S. Surveyors USSA Inc. and Navtech U.S. Captain U.S. Surveyors LLC's (collectively “Navtech”) Response in Opposition (Doc. 33). Navtech also requests oral argument. For the reasons below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted to the extent that Counts I, II, and III of the Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) are dismissed on shotgun pleading grounds with leave to amend Count I, and Count IV is dismissed with leave to amend. The request for oral argument is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         These facts are based on the Amended Complaint (Doc. 29), which the Court must accept as true at this stage of litigation: Navtech provides marine survey education and licensing and has subscribing members who include marine surveyors. Virtually all those in need of marine surveys - and particularly insurance companies such as Defendant - require that the surveyor hold professional “accreditation” with one of the accrediting bodies: Navtech, the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). Navtech is a competitor of SAMS and NAMS. Pertinent here, Navtech says that Defendant refers marine survey opportunities to a preferred list of licensed marine surveyors who belong not to Navtech but to NAMS and SAMS. In fact, Defendant flat out rejects Navtech surveys. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant has entered into an illegal rebate operation with NAMS and SAMS as its preferred organizations for marine surveys and receives improper kickbacks for steering surveyors in their direction.

         The Court previously dismissed the initial Complaint (filed in state court prior to removal) without prejudice[2], in part because it was a shotgun pleading that incorporated all previous paragraphs into each count and contained typographical errors, missing information, and incomplete sentences. See Doc. 28 at 3-4 (citing Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sherriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir. 2015) (stating an impermissible shotgun pleading is when “each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint” (footnote omitted); Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1295 (11th Cir. 2018) (“Courts in the Eleventh Circuit have little tolerance for shotgun pleadings.” (citations omitted)). The Court also assessed the merits and found that the Complaint did not state plausible claims for tortious interference with business relations due to conclusory allegations, and for a FDUTPA violation due to the failure to identify any deceptive and unfair practices that caused damages. (Doc. 28 at 4-5). The Court allowed Plaintiffs leave to amend to address these deficiencies.

         Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) on July 29, 2019, asserting four causes of action against Boat/U.S., all based on an alleged agreement between Boat/U.S. and SAMS/NAMS. (Doc. 29).

         Count I: Violation of Federal Antitrust Statute, 15 U.S.C. § 1 through [ ] Violation of Florida Statute § 626.730 (Insurance Regulation 4-40)

         Count II: Intentional Interference with Prospective Business Relations

         Count III: Intentional Interference with Existing Business Relations

         Count IV: Violation of Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices

         DISCUSSION

         A. Shotgun Pleading

         1. Counts II, III

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint remains a shotgun pleading as to Counts II and III, which incorporate all previous paragraphs before them (Doc. 29 at ¶¶ 66, 85), and Defendant moves to dismiss with prejudice on this basis alone (Doc. 30 at 20-21). See Jackson v. Bank of America, 898 F.3d 1348, 1357 (11th Cir. 2018) (stating that district court retain the authority to dismiss a shotgun pleading on that basis alone); Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1320 (explaining that the district court retains “inherent authority to control its docket and ensure the prompt ...


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