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Holland v. Sea Tech & Fun USA, LLC

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

November 22, 2019

DAVID HOLLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
SEA TECH & FUN USA, LLC, YVES GELB and ROBERT BRANAGH, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LESLIE R. HOFFMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the following motion filed herein:

MOTION: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE DEFENDANTS' AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES (Doc. 12)
FILED:May 31, 2019
THEREON it is respectfully RECOMMENDED that the motion be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         The Plaintiff has asserted a single claim of unpaid overtime compensation against the Defendants in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 33-47 (Complaint)). The Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by Defendant Sea Tech & Fun USA, LLC (Sea Tech) as a “Spade Anchor Sales Manager” between July 2014 and March 18, 2019. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-17). He regularly worked in excess of forty hours each workweek, but Sea Tech misclassified him as an exempt employee under the FLSA and did not pay him time and one-half for any overtime hours he worked. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-23, 29). The Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Yves Gelb (the managing member of Sea Tech) and Robert Branagh (Sea Tech's general manager) were also employers of the Plaintiff, and therefore, all three Defendants are jointly and severally liable as employers under the FLSA (Id. ¶¶ 11-12).

         In response to the Complaint, the Defendants filed an answer and twelve affirmative defenses. (Doc. 8). The Plaintiff filed a timely motion to strike the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, eleventh, and twelfth affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). (Doc. 12). The Defendants have filed a response in opposition to the Motion, requesting that it be denied in its entirety. (Doc. 13). The matter is fully briefed and has been referred to the undersigned for issuance of a report and recommendation.

         II. Applicable Law

         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.” Royal Palm Sav. Ass'n. v. Pine Trace Corp., 716 F.Supp. 1416, 1420 (M.D. Fla. 1989) (citation omitted). Affirmative defenses are subject to the general pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Microsoft Corp. v. Jesse's Computers & Repair, Inc., 211 F.R.D. 681, 684 (M.D. Fla. 2002). According to Rule 8, a party must “state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it” and “must affirmatively state any avoidance or affirmative defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(A), (c)(1). “Although Rule 8 does not obligate a defendant to set forth detailed factual allegations, a defendant must give the plaintiff ‘fair notice' of the nature of the defense and the grounds upon which it rests.” Hansen v. ABC Liquors, Inc., No. 3:09-cv-966-J-34MCR, 2009 WL 3790447, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 9, 2009) (citation omitted); see also Harvey v. Lake Buena Vista Resort, LLC, 568 F.Supp.2d 1354, 1360 (M.D. Fla. 2008) (citations omitted).

         “The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). A motion to strike filed pursuant to Rule 12(f) is subject to the Court's discretion, see Anchor Hocking Corp. v. Jacksonville Elec. Auth., 419 F.Supp. 992, 1000 (M.D. Fla. 1976), and such motions “are viewed with disfavor and are infrequently granted” even when they are “technically appropriate and well-founded” because striking is “a drastic remedy.” Harvey, 568 F.Supp.2d at 1359 (M.D. Fla. 2008).

         The court may also strike a defense that is insufficient as a matter of law. Anchor Hocking Corp., 419 F.Supp. at 1000 (citation omitted). “A 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.” Microsoft Corp., 211 F.R.D. at 683 (citation omitted). In addition, an affirmative defense may be stricken if it 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) (citations omitted). However, where “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.” Id. (citation omitted). Further, when an affirmative defense is actually a specific denial, the Court will generally treat the affirmative defense as such and will not strike it. See, e.g., Premium Leisure, LLC v. Gulf Coast Spa Mfrs., Inc., No. 8:08-cv-1048-T-24EAJ, 2008 WL 3927265, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 21, 2008).

         III. Discussion

         A. The First and Second Affirmative Defenses

         The Defendants' first and second affirmative defenses provide as follows:

First Affirmative Defense: Plaintiff's claims are barred because Plaintiff was exempt from the maximum hour requirements of the FLSA based on the executive exemption.
Second Affirmative Defense: Plaintiff's claims are barred because Plaintiff was exempt from the maximum hour requirements of the FLSA based on the ...

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