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Minns v. Advanced Clinical Empl. Staffing LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 10, 2014

MARIE MINNS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ADVANCED CLINICAL EMPLOYMENT STAFFING LLC, et al., Defendants

For Marie Minns, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Kemberly Briggs, Douglas Cameron, Plaintiffs: Dan Leo Gildor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jonathan E. Gertler, Chavez & Gertler LLP, Mill Valley, CA; Lori Erin Andrus, Andrus Anderson LLP, San Francisco, CA.

For Advanced Clinical Employment Staffing LLC, Defendant, 3rd party plaintiff: Harold R. Jones, LEAD ATTORNEY, Joel Lawrence Halverson, Rhonda Louise Nelson, Severson & Werson, San Francisco, CA.

For Sutter East Bay Hospitals, doing business as Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Defendant: Thomas E. Geidt, LEAD ATTORNEY, E. Jeffrey Grube, Esq., Elizabeth Alexandra Brown, Shelby Pasarell Tsai, Grube Brown & Geidt LLP, San Francisco, CA.

For HRN SERVICES, INC., Defendant, 3rd party defendant: Jon Mark Leader, Los Angeles, CA.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES Re: Dkt. Nos. 84, 86, 87

SUSAN ILLSTON, United States District Judge.

Currently before the Court are plaintiffs' motions to strike defendants' affirmative defenses. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court determines that these matters are appropriate for resolution without oral argument and VACATES the hearing scheduled for November 13, 2014. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motions to strike and GRANTS defendants leave to file amended answers. The amended answers shall be filed by November 21, 2014.

BACKGROUND

Named plaintiffs Marie Minns, Kemberly Briggs, and Douglas Cameron are health care providers who worked for defendant Advanced Clinical Employment Staffing, LLC (" ACES"), a temporary services provider that provides " replacement nurses" to its health care provider clients during labor disputes. The Fifth Amended Complaint (" FAC") alleges that ACES contracted with defendant Sutter East Bay Hospitals (" Sutter") in 2011 to provide temporary employees to the facility during a labor dispute between Sutter and its permanent employees. FAC ¶ 16. The FAC also alleges that defendant HRN Services Inc. (" HRN") contracted with ACES to provide nurses to ACES to assist ACES in meeting Sutter's personnel needs. FAC ¶ 15. The FAC alleges, inter alia, that during the class period defendants ACES, Sutter, and HRN did not compensate the replacement nurses for all time worked, did not compensate the replacement nurses in a timely manner, and that the replacement nurses were not authorized and permitted to take rest and meal periods. FAC ¶ 3. Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit on behalf of " themselves and all other nurses who were placed to work by ACES in California health care facilities during labor disputes at any time during the four years preceding the filing of this action through such time as this action is pending." FAC ¶ 1.

On September 8, 2014, defendant Sutter filed its answer to the FAC; the answer contained twenty-five affirmative defenses. Docket No. 80. On September 14, 2014, defendants HRN and ACES filed their answers to the FAC, with HRN alleging sixty-one affirmative defenses and ACES alleging thirty-six affirmative defenses. Docket Nos. 81 & 82. On September 30, 2014, plaintiffs moved to strike defendant Sutter's affirmative defenses contending that all of them were insufficiently plead under the Twombly/Iqbal standard, a number of them were actually denials disguised as affirmative defenses, and that others were not affirmative defenses at all. Docket No. 84, Motion to Strike. On October 3, 2014, plaintiffs moved to strike the affirmative defenses of defendants HRN and ACES for the same reasons. Docket Nos. 86 & 87. Defendant ACES filed a non-opposition to plaintiff's motion to strike; accordingly the Court GRANTS plaintiff's motion to strike all of defendant ACES' affirmative defenses with leave to amend. Defendants Sutter and HRN filed their oppositions to plaintiffs' motions to strike on October 14 and 17, 2014, respectively. Docket Nos. 91 & 92. In its opposition, defendant Sutter withdrew a number of its affirmative defenses.[1] This order will only address the affirmative defenses that remain at issue.

LEGAL STANDARD

An answer must " state in short and plain terms" the defenses to each claim asserted against the defendant in order to provide plaintiffs with fair notice of the defense(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b) (1)(A). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c), an " 'affirmative defense is a defense that does not negate the elements of the plaintiff's claim, but instead precludes liability even if all of the elements of the plaintiff's claim are proven.'" Barnes v. AT& T Pension Benefit Plan--Nonbargained Program, 718 F.Supp.2d 1167, 1171-72 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (quoting Roberge v. Hannah Marine Corp., No. 96-1691, 1997 WL 468330, at *3 (6th Cir. 1997)). Defendants bear the burden of proof for affirmative defenses. Kanne v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co., 867 F.2d 489, 492 (9th Cir. 1988).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that a court may, on its own or on a motion, " strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). A defense may be insufficient " as a matter of pleading or as a matter of substance." Security People, Inc. v. Classic Woodworking, LLC, No. C-04-3133 MMC, 2005 WL 645592, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2005). An insufficiently pled defense fails to comply with Rule 8 pleading requirements by not providing " plaintiff [with] fair notice of the nature of the defense" and the grounds upon which it rests. Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47-48, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); see generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. " A showing of prejudice is not required to strike an 'insufficient' portion of the pleading as opposed to 'redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter' under Rule 12(f)." Bottoni v. Sallie Mae, Inc., No. C 10-03602 LB, 2011 WL 3678878, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 22, 2011) (citation omitted). Nonetheless, " the obligation to conduct expensive and potentially unnecessary and irrelevant discovery is a prejudice." Id. However, motions to strike are generally disfavored. Rosales v. Citibank, 133 F.Supp.2d 1177, 1180 (N.D.Cal.2001). When a claim is stricken, " leave to amend should be freely given" so long as no prejudice results against the opposing party. Wyshak, 607 F.2d at 826.

DISCUSSION

I. Affirmative Defenses Lacking Specificity Pursuant to ...


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