This matter comes before the court upon plaintiff's motion to strike defendants' affirmative defenses. (ECF 22.) This matter was decided without a hearing. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion is hereby GRANTED.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this case on September 16, 2010, alleging it had the exclusive distribution rights to a televised fight that defendants aired at their commercial establishment, in violation of three statutes: 47 U.S.C. §§ 605, et seq., commonly known as the Communications Act of 1934; 47 U.S. §§ 553, et seq., commonly known as the Cable and Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992; and California Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq. (Compl. at 1, ECF 1.) Plaintiff also pled a cause of action for conversion. (Id. at 6.)
Plaintiff filed the present motion to strike on August 24, 2011. (ECF 22.) Plaintiff alleges that defendants insufficiently pled all ten affirmative defenses in their answer, and as a result, defendants' affirmative defenses must be stricken. (Pl.'s Mot. at 3-10). Defendants filed their opposition on September 13, 2011 (ECF 23), and plaintiff filed its reply on September 20, 2011 (ECF 24).
A. Motion to Strike Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that "[t]he court may strike from a
pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." "Redundant matter is defined as allegations that 'constitute a needless repetition of other averments or are foreign to the issue.'" Taheny v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2011 WL 1466944, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 18, 2011) (quoting Thornton v. Solutionone Cleaning Concepts, Inc., 2007 WL 210586 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2007)) (other citation omitted). "'Immaterial matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded[, and] [i]mpertinent matter consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question.'" Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting 5 CHARLES A.
WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1382, at 706-07 & 711 (1990)), rev'd on other grounds by 510 U.S. 517, 114 S. Ct. 1023 (2004).
A 12(f) motion to strike serves "to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial . . . ." Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). The granting of 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." Taheny, 2011 WL 1466944, at *2 (citing Fantasy, 984 F.2d at 1527-28). However, "[m]otions to strike are disfavored and infrequently granted." Neveau v. City of Fresno, 392 F. Supp.2d 1159, 1170 (E.D. Cal. 2005) (citations omitted). Indeed, a motion to strike "'should not be granted unless it is clear that the matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation.'" Id. (quoting Colaprico v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 758 F.Supp. 1335, 1339 (N.D. Cal. 1991)); see also Wynes v. Kaiser Permanente Hospitals, 2011 WL 1302916, at *12 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2011) (noting "courts often require a showing of prejudice by the moving party").
In ruling on a motion to strike, a "court may not resolve disputed and substantial factual or legal issues . . . ." Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation omitted). Finally, "leave to amend should be freely given" unless there is a showing of prejudice to the moving party. See Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 826-27 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)) (other citations omitted).
Plaintiff maintains that all of defendants' affirmative defenses should be stricken because they are insufficient, redundant, or immaterial. Plaintiff argues that this court should evaluate the sufficiency of defendants' affirmative defenses under the heightened pleading standard set forth in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and clarified by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); in applying this standard, defendants' affirmative defenses do not contain enough facts to withstand plaintiff's motion to strike. Alternatively, plaintiff argues that under the lower standard set forth in Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824 (9th Cir. 1979), defendants' affirmative defenses must be stricken because they do not provide plaintiff with fair notice of the defenses.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c) governs the pleading of affirmative defenses and requires a party to "affirmatively state any . . . affirmative defense . . ." when responding to a complaint. In Wyshak, the Ninth Circuit applied the pleading standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), to affirmative defenses and stated: "[t]he key to determining the sufficiency of pleading an affirmative defense is whether it gives plaintiff fair notice of the defense." Wyshak, 607 F.2d at 827. As plaintiff correctly points out, the Ninth Circuit has yet to apply Twombly and Iqbal to affirmative defenses, and to date, no circuit court has issued a decision regarding the applicability of the heightened pleading standard to affirmative defenses. See Barnes v. AT&T Pension Benefit Plan-Nonbargained Program, 718 F.Supp.2d 1167, 1172 (N.D. Cal. 2010). District courts in the Ninth Circuit are split on this issue. Compare, e.g., Trustmark Insurance Co. v. C & K Market, Inc., 2011 WL 587574 (D. Or. Feb. 10, 2011) (declining to extend Twombly's pleading requirements to affirmative defenses) with Barnes, 718 F.Supp.2d at 1171-73 (holding the heightened pleading standard of Twombly ...