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Dairy Employees Union Local No. 17 Christian Labor Association of United States of America Pension Trust v. Ferreira Dairy

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 6, 2015

DAIRY EMPLOYEES UNION LOCAL NO. 17 CHRISTIAN LABOR ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PENSION TRUST and BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE DAIRY EMPLOYEES UNION LOCAL NO. 17 CHRISTIAN LABOR ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PENSION TRUST, Plaintiffs,
v.
FERREIRA DAIRY, Defendant.

ORDER RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES & IMMATERIAL & IMPERTINENT ALLEGATIONS [13]

RONALD S.W. LEW, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs'[1] Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses and Immaterial and Impertinent Allegations [13] in Defendant Ferreira Dairy's Answer [9].

The Court, having reviewed all papers submitted and pertaining to this motion, NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS: The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses and Immaterial and Impertinent Allegations [13] as follows.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

This is an action by an alleged ERISA pension fund, Dairy Employees Union Local No. 17 Christian Labor Association of the United States of American Pension Trust ("Plaintiff Fund"), and its Board of Trustees ("Board") (collectively "Plaintiffs") to collect withdrawal liability from Defendant Ferreira Dairy ("Defendant") pursuant to ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. Compl. ¶ 1.

Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Fund is a trust fund and an employee benefit plan, maintained for the purpose of providing retirement and related benefits to eligible participants. Compl. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Fund is also a multi-employer pension plan within the meaning of Section 1002(37) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(37). Id . Plaintiffs bring this Action on behalf of themselves and on behalf of plan participants and beneficiaries pursuant to Sections 502 and 4301 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132, 1451. Id . ¶ 8.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant is an employer in an industry affecting commerce within the meaning of Sections 3(5), 3(11), and 3(12) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(5), (11), (12). Id . ¶ 9. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant was, until March 31, 2012, a signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with Plaintiff Fund that required Defendant to make contributions to the Fund to provide pension and related benefits to Defendant's employees performing work described in the collective bargaining agreement. Id . ¶ 11.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant withdrew from Plaintiff Fund in March 2012. Id . ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of Defendant's "complete withdrawal" from the Plaintiff Fund, Defendant is "jointly and severally liable for withdrawal liability, as required by the Pension [Trust's] Restated Pension Plan and Trust Agreement" and by Section 4001(b)(1) and 4201(a) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1301(b) and 1381(a). Id . ¶ 14.

Plaintiffs allege that, after notifying Defendant of its withdrawal liability and a quarterly payment scheme, Plaintiffs, to date, have not received any payments from Defendant. Id . ¶¶ 15-18. Plaintiffs allege that because Defendant has failed and refused to pay its withdrawal liability, Defendant is in default (as defined by 29 U.S.C. § 1399(c)(5)), which entitles Plaintiffs to accelerate the withdrawal liability debt and receive interest and liquidated damages. Id . ¶ 17. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant has not requested review or initiated arbitration pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1399(b)(2)(A) and 1401. Id . ¶ 19.

In Defendant's Answer, Defendant denies that it owes any sum to Plaintiffs and pleads fifteen affirmative defenses. Def.'s Answer ("Answer"), ECF No. 9. Plaintiffs request the Court to strike Defendants First, Second, Third, Fourth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Affirmative Defenses, [2] as well as the allegations in paragraphs five through seven of Defendant's Answer, except for the first sentence in each of those paragraphs. Pl.'s Reply ("Reply") 7:9-13.

B. Procedural Background

On June 25, 2014, Plaintiffs filed this Action [1]. On September 29, 2014, Defendant filed its Answer [9]. On October 20, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the present Motion to Strike ("Motion") [13]. On October 28, 2014, Defendant filed its Opposition to the Motion [18]. On November 4, 2014, Plaintiffs filed its Reply [19]. Defendant properly filed a Supplemental Opposition on November 14, 2014 [21]. The hearing was set for November 18, 2014 [13], and the Motion was taken under submission on November 13, 2014 [20].

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the Court may, on its own or on a party's motion, strike "an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous" matter from a pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f); Amini Innovation Corp. v. McFerran Home Furnishings Inc., No. CV-13-6496-RSWL, 2014 WL 360048, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2014). The function of Rule 12(f) is "to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by disposing of those issues prior to trial." Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010).

Before a motion to strike affirmative 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 defense succeed." Jones v. Sweeney, No. CV-F-04-6214-AWI-DLB, 2006 WL 1439080, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 24, 2006) (citing SEC v. Sands, 902 F.Supp. 1149, 1165 (C.D. Cal. 1995)). "[C]ourts may not resolve disputed and substantial factual or legal issues in deciding a motion to strike." Whittlestone, 618 F.3d at 973 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

The grounds for a motion to strike must appear on the face of the pleading under attack. Id . When ruling on a motion to strike, the Court must view the pleading under attack in the light most favorable to the pleader. Amini, 2014 WL 360048, at *2. If a motion to strike is granted, leave to amend should be freely given unless leave to amend would not be in the interest of justice. Id . (citing Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 826 (9th Cir. 1979)).

B. Insufficient Defense

"An affirmative defense may be insufficient as a matter of pleading or as a matter of law." Empl. Painters' Trust v. P. N.W. Contractors, Inc., No. C13-05018-BHS, 2013 ...


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