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Eric Weddle v. Bayer Ag Corporation

March 26, 2012

ERIC WEDDLE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
BAYER AG CORPORATION, ET AL.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

(ECF No. 27)

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Eric Weddle's ("Plaintiff" or "Weddle") motion to strike affirmative defenses, or in the alternative, motion for more definite statement. (Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 27) Also before the Court are Defendants Bayer Healthcare LLC ("Bayer") and Athlon Sports Communications, Inc.'s ("Athlon Sports," and collectively, "Defendants") opposition, (Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 47), and Plaintiff's reply, (Reply in Supp., ECF No. 49). The hearing set for the motion on January 12, 2012, was vacated, and the matter taken under submission on the papers. Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Weddle-currently a professional football player for the National Football League's San Diego Chargers-is suing Defendants for the allegedly improper and unauthorized use of an image of Plaintiff taken while he was a student-athlete at the University of Utah. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14, ECF No. 21) According to Plaintiff, Defendants used a photo of Weddle to promote Bayer's Alka-Seltzer product and Athlon Sports's 2009 Football Handbook. (Id. ¶ 21)

Plaintiff filed his original complaint on April 19, 2011, (Compl., ECF No. 1), and Defendants answered on June 22, 2011, asserting fifteen affirmative defenses, (Answer, ECF No. 8). On July 11, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike Defendants' affirmative defenses. (Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 15) Subsequently, the parties filed a joint motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (Joint. Mot., ECF No. 21) Defendants thereafter filed an answer to the amended complaint, this time asserting just five affirmative defenses. (Answer, ECF No. 25) Plaintiff then filed the instant motion to strike Defendants' affirmative defenses.

LEGAL STANDARD

1. Motion to Strike

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a court "may order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). However, "[m]otions to strike are generally regarded with disfavor because of the limited importance of pleading in federal practice, and because they are often used as a delaying tactic." Neilson v. Union Bank of Cal., N.A., 290 F. Supp. 2d 1101, 1152 (C.D. Cal. 2003). Moreover, the motion "should not be granted unless the matter to be stricken clearly could have no possible bearing on the subject of the litigation. If there is any doubt whether the portion to be stricken might bear on an issue in the litigation, the court should deny the motion." Platte Anchor Bolt, Inc. v. IHI, Inc., 352 F. Supp. 2d 1048, 1057 (N.D. Cal. 2004). The court "views the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Neilson, 290 F. Supp. 2d at 1152.

2. Motion for More Definite Statement

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e), "[a] party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). A motion for more definite statement "should be granted only where the [pleading] is so indefinite that the defendants cannot ascertain the nature of the claims being asserted and literally cannot frame a responsive pleading." Hubbs v. County of San Bernardino, 538 F. Supp. 2d 1254, 1262 (C.D. Cal. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

ANALYSIS

Pursuant to Rule 12(f), Plaintiff moves to strike each of Defendants' affirmative defenses asserted in their August 23, 2011, answer to the amended complaint. (Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 27) Defendants assert five affirmative defenses: (1) "Lack of Standing," (Answer 7, ECF No. 25);

(2) "Innocent Infringer -- Lack of Willfulness," (id.); (3) "First Amendment," (id. at 8); (4) "Newsworthiness," (id.); and (5) "Punitive Damages," (id.). In the alternative, Plaintiff moves for a more definite statement ...


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