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Madison v. Goldsmith and Hull

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 24, 2013

GEORGINE MEDINA MADISON, Plaintiff(s),
v.
GOLDSMITH AND HULL, et. al., Defendant(s)

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE; GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF SERVICE EXPENSES AND ATTORNEYS FEES [Docket Item No(s). 15, 16]

EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 11, 2013, Plaintiff Georgine Medina Madison ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against Defendants Goldsmith & Hull and Eric Scott Mintz (collectively, "Defendants") for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et. seq., and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ("RFDCPA"), California Civil Code § 1788 et. seq. See Docket Item No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants engaged in unlawful debt collection activity within a state court lawsuit filed against Plaintiff on or about April 24, 2012. Id.

Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint on July 19, 2013, which included twelve affirmative defenses. See Docket Item No. 12. Presently before the court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). See Docket Item No. 16. Also before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for an award of service expenses and attorneys fees and costs pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(d)(2). See Docket Item No. 15.

Federal jurisdiction arises pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Having carefully reviewed the relevant documents, the court finds this matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). The hearing scheduled for November 1, 2013, will therefore be vacated and Plaintiff's motions will be granted for the reasons explained below.

II. THE MOTION TO STRIKE

A. 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. Security 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).

In this district at least, a defendant provides "fair notice" of an affirmative defense by meeting the pleading standard articulated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, as further refined by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). See Otey v. Crowdflower, Inc., No. 12-cv-05524-JST, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151846, at *11-12, 2013 WL 5734146 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2013) ("This Court agrees with the many judges in this district, however, who routinely apply Iqbal's heightened pleading standard to affirmative defenses."); see also Perez v. Gordon & Wong Law Group, P.C., No. 11-CV-03323-LHK , 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41080, at *24-25, 2012 WL 1029425 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2012). Thus, while a defense need not include extensive factual allegations in order to give fair notice ( Security People, Inc. , 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44641, at *6), it must include enough supporting information to be plausible; 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.

B. Discussion

1. Defenses Insufficient as a Matter of Pleading

Having reviewed the entire Answer - which is essentially devoid of any factual allegations - the court finds that some of the asserted defenses are not plead with sufficient particularity to give Plaintiff fair notice of the basis for the asserted defense. Id. at 827. This determination encompasses the second affirmative defense based on the statutes of limitation, the third affirmative defense based on the actions of others, the ...


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