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CURRIER v. CHOW

November 2, 2005.

PAUL TALCOTT CURRIER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ROBERT CHOW, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS HOLZ, DEMERLY, HAAS AND METROFI
Now before the Court are motions to dismiss brought by defendants Otto Holz, Paul Demerly, Chuck Haas and MetroFi, Inc. All defendants seek dismissal of plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, without leave to amend. Pursuant to Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds the motions suitable for resolution without oral argument and therefore VACATES the hearing set for November 4, 2005. For the reasons set out below, the Court GRANTS defendants' motions.

BACKGROUND

  On August 12, 2004, plaintiffs*fn1 filed this action against ten named defendants and an unknown number of "Doe" defendants. The original complaint was 88 pages long, and consisted of 500 paragraphs of allegations in support of its eighteen causes of action. By order dated January 26, 2005, the complaint was dismissed with leave to amend on the grounds, inter alia, that it violated Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint was filed on February 11, 2005 and their Second Amended Complaint was filed July 15, 2005. On August 12, 2005, plaintiffs filed their Third Amended Complaint, which is the subject of the current motion.

  The Third Amended Complaint names twenty-three defendants. It is 81 pages long and contains 409 paragraphs of allegations in support of twenty-one causes of action. It alleges forty-six separate RICO conspiracies involving the worldwide telecommunications industry. Its conspiracy allegations span the entire globe, and include, among numerous others, allegations involving "the manufacture of a cutting-edge technology Trimaran boats [sic]," the "plunder" of the Philippine treasury by former president Ferdinand Marcos, and "marriage fraud" committed by Currier's ex-wife. See Pl. Compl. at ¶¶ 87, 74, 73. In addition to the twenty-three named defendants, plaintiffs have named sixteen "relevantnon-parties," all of whom are former defendants to the action. In a representative example of the sheer magnitude of plaintiffs' claims, plaintiffs request permission to sue on behalf of the people of the United States, because "the Attorney General clearly will not do so." Pl. Compl. at ¶ 13.

  The complaint is long, rambling, and extraordinarily difficult to follow. The gist of the complaint appears to be that, in 1995, Currier developed a method of wireless internet voice communications that would have been faster and less expensive than what was then available. Pl. Compl. at ¶ 66-69. Currier believed this new invention had the potential to provide affordable wireless internet and telephone products to the entire world, including to remote areas of developing nations. Id. In 1999, he founded corporate plaintiff Communication Bridge Global, Inc. ("CBG"), conceivably to carry out his plan, although the complaint does not make this clear. Id. at ¶ 70-71. Currier's other company, Communication Bridge USA, Inc. ("CBUSA"), was later formed as a subsidiary of CBG. Id. The complaint then describes a vast network of conspiracies involving the Philippine government, Currier's ex-wife, and the entire telecommunications industry, the goal of which was to prevent Currier's idea from coming to fruition, to destroy his companies, and to steal his intellectual property.

  Four of the defendants have now brought motions to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint. They all contend that the complaint's lengthy and rambling allegations fail to comply with the minimal pleading standards established by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court agrees.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain "(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . ., (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Under Rule 8(e), "each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct." The purpose of these requirements is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99, 103 (1957). In practical terms, the requirements of Rule 8 ensure that a defendant will be able to respond to the allegations against him. Edwards v. N. Am. Rockwell Corp., 291 F. Supp. 199, 211 (C.D. Cal. 1968) ("Rule 8(a)(2) envisions the presentation of factual allegations of sufficient clarity and certainty to enable defendants to determine the basis of plaintiff's claim and to formulate a responsive pleading."). They also help frame the lawsuit to guide case management and discovery. McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996).

  DISCUSSION

  The Court finds that plaintiffs' complaint is not well-pled. Its convoluted allegations against a litany of defendants and "relevant non-parties," which span 81 pages and 409 paragraphs, are simply too confusing to give the defendants fair notice of the claims against them. Although the complaint provides a fair amount of detail concerning the telecommunications industry, the failure of the federal government to protect consumers from monopolies, and other "background" facts, the complaint fails to provide any detail when it discusses the actual wrongs the named defendants allegedly committed. Instead, it resorts to sweeping, conclusory allegations of vast conspiracies. In short, the Ninth Circuit's description of a complaint in a similar case applies fully here: "Despite all the pages, requiring a great deal of time for perusal, one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery." McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1178.

  Plaintiffs concede that the complaint is lengthy, but argue that the length is necessary because the factual background of this case is complicated. In defense of their complaint, plaintiffs cite to Washington v. Baenziger, 673 F. Supp. 1478 (N.D. Cal. 1987), and Velasquez v. Senko, 643 F. Supp. 1172 (N.D. Cal. 1986). Neither of these cases can save the current complaint.

  Washington involved a professional baseball player who sued his investment advisor for fraud, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims. His original complaint was 86 pages long, contained 33 causes of action against 21 defendants, and attached fifteen pages of exhibits. See Washington v. Baenziger, 656 F. Supp. 1176, 1177 (N.D. Cal. 1987). After this complaint was dismissed under Rule 8(a), the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. In the amended complaint, the plaintiff "divided the defendants into relevant groups and specified the causes of action against each group. He also added dates to the allegations of fraud, and provided greater specificity to the alleged fraudulent acts of each defendant or group of defendants." Washington, 673 F. Supp. at 1482. Based upon these changes, the court held that the complaint complied not only with Rule 8(a), but also with the heightened pleading requirement of Rule 9(b). Id.

  Unlike in Washington, plaintiffs here have not taken steps to clarify the allegations in their complaint. They have not "divided the defendants into relevant groups," nor have they "provided greater specificity to the alleged fraudulent acts." Rather, plaintiffs have continued to indiscriminately bring vague and conclusory allegations against the defendants as a single group.

  Plaintiffs also cite Velasquez v. Senko, 643 F. Supp. 1172 (N.D. Cal. 1986), for the proposition that a complaint may include a great amount of detail and still be in compliance with Rule 8. Velasquez concerned a civil rights lawsuit against the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, and local police. Id. at 1174. The court rejected a motion to dismiss under Rule 8(a), finding that "the instant Complaint in no way compares to . . . amorphous pleadings; it describes in considerable detail seven separate operations of the INS and Border Patrol that were ...


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