United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE ANSWERS AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES ECF Nos. 14, 21
M. JAMES LORENZ, District Judge.
Plaintiff, J & J Sports Productions, Inc., owned the exclusive rights to distribute "The Clash in Cotai", a boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios (hereinafter the " Program "). On November 23, 2014, the fight was broadcast across the United States. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knowingly intercepted and showed the fight without permission of Plaintiff, in violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 605, et seq., the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, 47 U.S.C. § 553, et seq., and California Business and Professional Code § 17200, et seq. Plaintiff also alleges a common law claim of conversion. Defendants appear to deny all allegations and raise fifteen enumerated affirmative defenses. Plaintiff now brings a Motion to Strike Defendants' Answers and Affirmative Defenses. Under Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1., the Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument.
I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On November 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed the Complaint, which named Jose Alberto Olivo and Juan Pablo Martinez, both individually and d/b/a Club Caribe, as well as Club Caribe ("Caribe") as an unknown business entity. However, Caribe was not properly served with a summons and therefore not initially a party to this action. Accordingly, when Defendants Olivo, Martinez, and Caribe each filed an Answer to the Complaint, the Court struck the Answer filed by Caribe. Summons for Caribe was reissued and Caribe was properly served. Before Caribe filed an answer, Plaintiff brought a Motion to Strike Defendants' Answers and Affirmative Defenses against Defendants Olivo and Martinez. When Caribe filed its Answer, Plaintiff brought a motion to strike against it as well. As the Answers of Olivo, Martinez, and Caribe are identical except for cosmetic differences and the filing parties, and the motions to strike brought against those answers are substantively the same, this Court will consider them together for purposes of this Order. Further, as Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Strike was filed before the deadline for Caribe to file an opposition, this Court will consider it to be timely.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
When responding to pleadings a party must "state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it" and when contesting an allegation "a denial must fairly respond to the substance of the allegation." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(b)(1)-(2).
Affirmative defenses must give the plaintiff "fair notice of the defense." Wyshak v. City National Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979). This does not require detailed factual support for the defense but must make clear the basis for the defense. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47-48 (1957). An affirmative defense which negates an element of a plaintiff's claim is not an affirmative defense but an answer to that claim. Zivkovic v. Southern Cal. Edison, 302 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002). The Ninth Circuit has declined to extend the heightened pleading standard promulgated in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), to affirmative defenses. Kohler v. Islands Restaurants, LP, 280 F.R.D. 560, 565-66 (S.D. Cal. 2012) (Whelan, J.); see Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1023 (9th Cir. 2010).
A court may strike "an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous material" from a pleading. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f). However, motions to strike are not widely favored, see Colaprico v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 758 F.Supp. 1335, and leave to amend stricken pleadings should be freely granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962).
Plaintiff's Motion to Strike argues both that Defendants' answers ( i.e., responses to the allegations enumerated in the complaint) are invalid, and Defendants' affirmative defenses are not legally sufficient. The Court will consider the two separately.
A. Answers to Allegations
Plaintiff's complaint contains forty-eight allegations and includes four separate counts. The first nineteen allegations address jurisdiction and the parties to the matter, as well as other allegations general to all counts. Beginning with the twentieth allegation, the complaint is broken into four counts, with all preceding allegations reincorporated into each count. In their Answer to the complaint, Defendants list four counts but merely state that "Defendant denies each and every allegation of the complaint" by means of response to each of the counts. (Answer at 2.) Defendants' answers to the allegations of the Complaint are insufficient.
Under Rule 8(b), parties may either respond to allegations individually or submit a general denial of the entire pleading. FED. R. CIV. P. 8(b)(3). If a party wishes to submit a general denial, they must seek to deny all facets of the complaint, or deny all allegations except those specifically designated for admission. Id. at (c). Otherwise a party must address the substance of each allegation. Id. at (b). In this case, Defendants' answers satisfy neither requirement. Some allegations cannot be disputed in good faith. For example, Defendants Martinez and Olivo are indeed identified on the liquor license issued to Club Caribe as alleged in the complaint. (Compl. at 8, 10.) Therefore, a general denial is not valid. As the denials do not address the substance of any counts, the answers are also invalid as a response to individual allegations.
In light of these deficiencies, Defendants' answers are stricken with leave to amend. Defendants should take care to review the substance of the allegations before submitting an amended answer. Defendants should ...