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Baker v. Ensign

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 20, 2014

CAMERON BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON ENSIGN, Defendant. AND RELATED COUNTERCLAIM AND THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MR. ENSIGN'S MOTIONS TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES [ECF Nos. 117, 118]

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), Defendant/Cross-claimant Jason Ensign moves to strike every affirmative defense asserted in Plaintiff/Counter-defendant Cameron Baker's and Third Party Defendants City of San Diego, William Lansdowne, and David Spitzer's respective answers.[1] Mr. Baker and the City Defendants filed oppositions, but Mr. Ensign did not file replies.

The Court finds these motions suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Mr. Ensign's motions to strike affirmative defenses.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

This case involves an incident that occurred on November 29, 2009 at a football game that took place at Qualcomm Stadium. It is alleged that a scuffle ensued after security guards at the game attempted to evict Mr. Ensign for displaying an obscene hand gesture. The security guards took custody of Mr. Ensign and then transferred custody to the San Diego Police Department. Mr. Ensign alleges that he was falsely arrested and battered at Qualcomm Stadium by a team of private security guards.

In connection with this incident, Mr. Ensign was charged with seven crimes involving battery and vandalism. Andres Carnahan and Jonathan Lapin are the prosecutors who handled the case. After a bench trial, all charges against Mr. Ensign were dismissed. The court determined that the San Diego Municipal Code regulating fan behavior at Qualcomm Stadium was unconstitutionally vague, and thus, unenforceable. Subsequently, Mr. Ensign filed a petition for a finding of factual innocence. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith argued against Mr. Ensign's petition. The court found Mr. Ensign to be factually innocent.

On July 2, 2010, Plaintiff/Cross-defendant Cameron Baker filed an action in state court against Mr. Ensign. Thereafter, Mr. Ensign filed a civil-rights cross-complaint and third-party complaint against various third-party defendants, including the City of San Diego. The City of San Diego removed this action to federal court. On March 31, 2014, Mr. Ensign filed a Second Amended Cross Complaint and Second Amended Third Party Complaint against Third Party Defendants City of San Diego, San Diego Police Chief William Landsdowne, and David Spitzer.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(f) provides that a federal court may strike from the pleadings any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). The function of a motion to strike is to avoid the unnecessary expenditures that arise throughout litigation by dispensing of any spurious issues prior to trial. Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983); Chong v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 428 F.Supp.2d 1136, 1139 (S.D. Cal. 2006). As a general matter,

[m]otions to strike affirmative defenses are disfavored. Before a motion to strike defenses may be granted, "the Court must be convinced that there are no questions of fact, that any questions of law are clear and not in dispute, and that under no set of circumstances could the defenses succeed."

Levin-Richmond Terminal Corp. v. Int'l Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, Local 10, 751 F.Supp. 1373, 1375 (N.D. Cal. 1990) (quoting Systems Corp. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 60 F.R.D. 692, 694 (S.D.N.Y. 1973)). Motions to strike must be filed within twenty-one days after the filing of the pleading under attack. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). However, the court may consider an untimely motion to strike if appropriate because a court may act on its own motion. See id.

"[T]he Ninth Circuit has directed courts to evaluate the pleading sufficiency of affirmative defenses under the fair notice' standard." Kohler v. Islands Rest., LP, 280 F.R.D. 560, 565 (S.D. Cal. 2012) (Whelan, J.) (citing Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979)). "Fair notice generally requires that the defendant state the nature and grounds for the affirmative defense." Id. at 564. "It does not, however, require a detailed statement of facts." Id.

Although there is a request that this Court apply the pleading standards in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "[n]either the Ninth Circuit, nor any other Circuit Court of Appeals, however, has ruled on this issue." Dodson v. Gold Cnty. Foods, Inc., No. 13-cv-336, 2013 WL 5970410, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2013).

Regardless, "the Supreme Court's analysis in Twombly and Iqbal is itself limited to pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)." Kohler, 280 F.R.D. at 566. "Rule 8(a)(2) requires that the party stating a claim for relief provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In contrast, Rule 8(c), which governs defenses, only requires the responding party to "affirmatively state" its defenses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c). That distinction is important because "[f]actual plausibility - which is the key difference between Twombly/Iqbal pleading and fair notice' pleading - is particularly suited to claim pleading because Rule 8(a)(2) requires that the party show[]' that it is entitled to relief." See Kohler, 280 F.R.D. at 566. "Applying the same standard of pleading to claims and affirmative defenses, despite this clear distinction in the rules' language, would run counter to the Supreme Court's warning in Twombly that legislative action, not judicial ...


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