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G & G Closed Circuit Events, LLC v. Nguyen

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 10, 2013

G & G CLOSED CIRCUIT EVENTS, LLC, Plaintiff(s),
v.
TINA L. NGUYEN, et. al., Defendant(s).

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE [Docket Item No(s). 27]

EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On June 15, 2012, Plaintiff G & G Closed Circuit Events, LLC ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against Defendants Tina L. Nguyen, Guruprasad Suryanarayana and Satom, LLC (collectively, "Defendants") for violations of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. § 605, the Cable and Television Protection and Competition Act of 1992, 47 U.S.C. § 553, California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Business and Professions Code § 17200 et. seq., as well as for conversion. See Compl., Docket Item No. 1. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was granted the exclusive nationwide commercial distribution rights to Strikeforce: "World Grand Prix": Alistair Overeem v. Fabricio Werdum. Id. at ¶ 21. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully intercepted the program and broadcast it in certain establishments in violation of Plaintiff's exclusive license.

Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint on September 14, 2012, which included eighteen affirmative defenses. See Answer, Docket Item No. 10. The court granted Plaintiff's motion to strike these defenses on January 9, 2013, but allowed Defendants leave to amend a number of them. See Docket Item No. 22. Defendants thereafter filed an Amended Answer on January 25, 2013, this time asserting eight affirmative defenses. See Docket Item No. 25.

Presently before the court is Plaintiff's second Motion to Strike Defendants' affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). See Docket Item No. 27. Federal jurisdiction arises pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Having carefully reviewed the relevant documents, the court has determined that Plaintiff's motion should be granted in part and denied in part for the reasons explained below.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) permits a court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." A defense may be insufficient as a matter of pleading or a matter of law. Sec. People, Inc. v. Classic Woodworking, LLC, No. C-04-3133 MMC , 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44641, at *5, 2005 WL 645592 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2005). "The key to determining the sufficiency of pleading an affirmative defense is whether it gives plaintiff fair notice of the defense." Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank , 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979). While a defense need not include extensive factual allegations in order to give fair notice (Sec. People, Inc. , 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44641, at *6), bare statements reciting mere legal conclusions may not be sufficient. CTF Dev., Inc. v. Penta Hospitality, LLC, No. C 09-02429 , 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99538, at *21, 2009 WL 3517617 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2009).

A court may also strike matter in an answer that is immaterial or impertinent. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Immaterial matter is "that which 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, 510 U.S. 517 (1994) (quoting 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1382, at 706-07 (1990)). Impertinent matter does not pertain, and is not necessary, to the issues in question. Id.

Where a court strikes an affirmative defense, leave to amend should be freely given so long as there is no prejudice to the moving party. Wyshak , 607 F.2d at 826.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Laches

Defendants have re-plead a laches defense after the court struck the prior iteration for failure to provide Plaintiff with fair notice of the basis for the defense. They now allege that "Plaintiff refrained from filing this action until June 15, 2012, nearly a year after the alleged telecast" and, during this time period, "Defendants' business has substantially changed" such that Plaintiff's delay in filing is prejudicial. See Docket Item No. 25, at 5:5-11. Plaintiff argues the laches defense is still insufficiently plead.

"The defense of laches requires unreasonable delay plus either acquiescence in the act about which plaintiff complains or prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay.'" Johnson v. City of Loma Linda , 24 Cal.4th 61, 68 (2000) (quoting Conti v. Bd. of Civil Service Comm'rs , 1 Cal.3d 351, 359 (1969)). Here, Defendants have amended their laches defense to plead exactly what is required: they have identified an unreasonable delay and stated how this delay caused them prejudice. Thus, to the extent Plaintiff finds the allegations incapable of providing "fair notice" due to a lack of further specificity, the court disagrees. See Rapp v. Lawrence Welk Resort, No. 12-CV-01247 BEN (Wmc), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11966, at *21, 2013 WL 358268 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2013) (finding with regard to a laches defense that "[t]he fair notice standard only requires the pleading to provide a plaintiff with fair notice of the nature and grounds of the affirmative defense, not to prove that the defendant will ultimately prevail.").

It is true, however, that a laches defense may have limited application to this case. "The equitable defense of laches does not apply in an action at law." Pratali v. Gates , 4 Cal.App.4th 632, 645 (1992). This is because "[t]he equitable doctrine of laches has a legal equivalent in the statutes of limitations." Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Bank of America NT&SA , 32 Cal.App.4th 424, 439 (1995). An action subject to trial by jury is generally considered to be one "at law." See Tull v. United States , 481 U.S. 412, 417 (1987). In this case, Plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial on alleged violations of 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 and (or) 605 as well as on the cause of action for conversion. See J & J Sports Prods. v. Jimenez, No. 10cv0866 DMS (RBB), 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118222, at *8, 2010 WL 4639314 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 8, 2010) (concluding that "the Seventh Amendment preserves the right to jury trial for statutory damage claims ...


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