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Richard Martel v. Frank Cadjew and Julie Cadjew

September 20, 2011



This case, in which plaintiff is proceeding pro se, is before the undersigned pursuant to Eastern District of California Local Rule 302(c)(21). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the undersigned is defendants' motion to strike portions of plaintiff's complaint and first amended complaint. Dckt. No. 9. For the reasons stated herein, the motion to strike is denied in part and granted in part.

I. Background

In February 2011, plaintiff Richard Martel filed a complaint against defendants Frank and Julie Cadjew, alleging claims for aggravated false imprisonment, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dckt. No. 1. On April 7, 2011, defendants filed a motion to quash service of the summons and complaint and to dismiss for insufficient service of process. Dckt. No. 5. However, on April 18, 2011, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint; thereafter, defendants withdrew their motion to quash. Dckt. Nos. 7, 8. The first amended complaint alleges claims for false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of California Civil Code section 52.1. Dckt. No. 7.

Specifically, the first amended complaint alleges, among other things, that on September 26, 2010, plaintiff and two companions were walking along the old state highway 37 between Donner Summit and Donner Lake when they encountered defendants, who approached plaintiff and his companions, informed them that they were on a private road on defendants' private property, and directed that they leave. Id. ¶¶ 11-15. Plaintiff alleges that Frank Cadjew yelled at him "in threatening, abusive, profane, and obscene language and never stopped," threatened him, and assaulted him by "forcefully shov[ing] the front of his boot into the gravel, sand, and rock roadbed, causing gravel, sand, and rocks to fly up and hit Plaintiff in the face." Id. ¶¶ 16-18. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants ordered plaintiff and his companions to follow defendants "down the hill" and off defendants' property. Id. ¶¶ 25-32. Plaintiff contends that defendants "knew, and have known for years, that they have no legal basis for claiming any ownership of the county road, but rather use threats and violence to keep the public off the road." Id. ¶ 34.

II. Motion to Strike

Defendants now move to strike portions of plaintiff's complaint and first amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(f). Dckt. No. 9. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dckt. No. 10.

A. Standards

Rule 12(f) authorizes the court to order stricken from any pleading "any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." A matter is immaterial if it "has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded." Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993), rev'd on other grounds by 510 U.S. 517 (1994). A matter is impertinent if it consists of statements that do not pertain to and are not necessary to the issues in question. Id. Redundant matter is defined as allegations that "constitute a needless repetition of other averments or are foreign to the issue." Thornton v. Solutionone Cleaning Concepts, Inc., 2007 WL 210586 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2007) (citing Wilkerson v. Butler, 229 F.R.D. 166, 170 (E.D. Cal. 2005)). Finally, a matter is scandalous if it improperly casts a derogatory light on a party or other person. Skadegaard v. Farrell, 578 F. Supp. 1209, 1221 (D.N.J. 1984); Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distributing Co., 961 F.2d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 1992). As with motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, when ruling upon a motion to strike, the court must view the pleading under attack in the light more favorable to the pleader. Lazar v. Trans Union LLC, 195 F.R.D. 665, 669 (C.D. Cal. 2000); Multimedia Patent Trust v. Microsoft Corp., 525 F. Supp.2d 1200, 1207 (S.D. Cal. 2007).

Motions to strike are generally disfavored and will usually be denied unless the allegations in the pleading have no possible relation to the controversy, and may cause prejudice to one of the parties. See 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d 1380; see also Hanna v. Lane, 610 F. Supp. 32, 34 (N.D. Ill. 1985). However, granting a motion to strike may be proper if it will make trial less complicated or eliminate serious risks of prejudice to the moving party, delay, or confusion of the issues. Fantasy, 984 F.2d at 1527-28.

If the court is in doubt as to whether the challenged matter may raise an issue of fact or law, the motion to strike should be denied, leaving an assessment of the sufficiency of the allegations for adjudication on the merits. See Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 2010); see also 5A Wright & Miller, supra, at 1380. Whittlestone emphasized the distinction between Rule 12(f) and Rule 12(b)(6) and noted that if Rule 12(f) were to be read "in a manner that allowed litigants to use it as a means to dismiss some or all of a pleading . . . we would be creating redundancies within the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Id. at 976; see also Yamamoto v. Omiya, 564 F.2d 1319, 1327 (9th Cir. 1977) ("Rule 12(f) is neither an authorized nor a proper way to procure the dismissal of all or a part of a complaint.").

B. Discussion

Defendants argue that although plaintiff's complaint is based on an alleged incident that occurred on defendants' land on September 26, 2010, plaintiff "has polluted his pleadings with vague references to unrelated matters that allegedly occurred in 2006 and other pejorative matter that is immaterial, impertinent and scandalous, to such a degree that relief is appropriate under [Rule] 12(f)." Dckt. No. 9-1 at 2. Defendants contend that the objectionable matter in plaintiff's pleadings "harbors the potential to harm [defendants] and other persons, and to confuse both this Court and a jury with unrelated and hearsay recitations of superfluous historical allegations." Id. Defendants contends that they are "at risk of prejudice by the possibility that Plaintiff will attempt to display the offensive pleading to a jury or otherwise publish the pleading." Id. Finally, defendants note that "the objectionable matter is neither alleged upon the personal knowledge of Plaintiff, nor properly premised upon information and belief." Id.

Specifically, defendants contend that paragraphs 6 through 10 of plaintiff's complaint and first amended complaint are immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. Id. at 4. They argue that paragraphs 6 through 10, which allege generally that in 2006 defendants, with the help of two recently elected Nevada County Supervisors, unsuccessfully attempted to obtain legal title to the county road at issue, are "superfluous historical allegations" and "unnecessary particulars," and should therefore be stricken as immaterial since nothing that is alleged to have transpired in 2006 is material or pertinent to plaintiff's claims of being assaulted, battered by debris, or otherwise injured on September 26, 2010 by individuals he met for the first time on that day. Id. Defendants also argue that paragraphs 6 through 10 are "scandalous in that they improperly 'cast a cruelly derogatory light on a party and other person.'" Id. Defendants contend that "[t]he overall theme of paragraphs 6-10 is to denigrate [defendants], who owned undeveloped, forested acreage for 24 years, as secret and sinister real estate developers, maneuvering and conspiring with politicians and government officials to posture the property for development and exploitation" and that such "derogatory comments have no relevance or place in a pleading on file with this Court." Id.

Defendants also seek to strike as impertinent and immaterial the second sentence of paragraph 33, in which plaintiff alleges that a police officer who came out to take plaintiff's report after the incident told plaintiff that Frank Cadjew's conduct amounted to both assault and battery, and all of paragraph 34, in which plaintiff alleges that defendants did not file a trespassing complaint as they threatened to do, evidencing defendants' knowledge that they had no legal basis for claiming ownership in the county road. Defendants argue that "[t]he prejudicial impact of allowing any such ...

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