United States District Court, E.D. California
JOSEPH D. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
EDMUND G. BROWN, JR,, Defendants.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO STRIKE DEFENDANT'S AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES TO
COMPLAINT BE DENIED IN PART AND GRANTED IN PART (ECF NO.
D. Rodriguez (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in
this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. The case now proceeds on the original Complaint filed
by Plaintiff on November 19, 2015, against Stuart Sherman
(Warden of the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility
(“SATF”)) (“Defendant”), for adverse
conditions of confinement and related state claims. (ECF No.
filed his complaint on November 19, 2015. (ECF No. 1.)
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated in the custody of the
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at
the SATF in Corcoran, California, where the events at issue
in the Complaint allegedly occurred. Id. In
Plaintiff's complaint, he alleges various adverse
conditions including an infestation of vermin in the dining
facility at SATF, causing unsanitary conditions affecting his
meals. Id. On December 8, 2015, the Court screened
Plaintiff's complaint, finding only a cognizable claim
under the Eighth Amendment against only Defendant Sherman for
his failure to remedy the sanitation issues, and that
Plaintiff failed to state any other sort of claim against any
of the other Defendants. (ECF No. 6.) The Court also
exercised supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
state law claims that arise out of the same case or
controversy as the aforementioned cognizable federal claim.
Sherman filed an answer to the complaint on December 7, 2016,
listing various affirmative defenses. (ECF No. 29.) On
December 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike
Defendant's affirmative defenses to complaint arguing
that “Defendants' affirmative defenses are vague,
conclusory allegations that fail.” (ECF No. 31, p. 2.)
On January 6, 2017, Defendant Sherman filed an opposition to
the motion. (ECF No. 33.) This motion and opposition are now
before the Court.
MOTION TO STRIKE
12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
district court to “strike from a pleading an
insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Whittlestone,
Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir.
2010). “[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to strike is
to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise
from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those
issues prior to trial . . .” Everett H. v. Dry
Creek Joint Elementary Sch. Dist., 5 F.Supp.3d 1167,
1177 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H.
Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir.1983)).
are required to “affirmatively state any avoidance or
affirmative defenses.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c)(1). Plaintiff
asserts that Defendant's affirmative defenses failed to
“plead facts showing that the defense is plausible, not
just possible.” (ECF No. 31, p. 3) (citing Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2000)). The Ninth Circuit
has indicated that “‘the fair notice'
required by the pleading standards only requires describing
the defense in ‘general terms.'” Kohler
v. Flava Enterprises, Inc., 779 F.3d 1016, 1019 (9th
Cir. 2015) (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1274
(3d ed. 1998)). Since Kohler, this District has
routinely applied the fair notice standard to a motion to
strike affirmative defenses. Gomez v. J. Jacobo Farm
Labor Contractor, Inc., 188 F.Supp.3d 986, 991-92 (E.D.
Cal. 2016) (citing United States v. Gibson Wine Co.,
2016 WL 1626988, *4-6 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 25, 2016)).
fair notice standard “is less demanding than the
Twombly/Iqbal standard, but still requires
a party to plead some factual basis for its
allegations.” Sherwin-Williams Co. v. Courtesy
Oldsmobile- Cadillac, Inc., No. 1:15-CV-01137 MJS HC,
2016 WL 615335, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2016). “The
key to determining the sufficiency of pleading an affirmative
defense is whether it gives plaintiff fair notice of the
defense.” Simmons v. Navajo Cty., Ariz., 609
F.3d 1011, 1023 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Wyshak v. City
National Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979)).
“Although ‘fair notice' is a low bar that
does not require great detail, it does require a defendant to
provide ‘some factual basis' for its affirmative
defenses. [Citations] Simply referring to a doctrine or
statute is insufficient to afford fair notice.”
Gomez, 188 F.Supp.3d at 992 (quoting Gibson Wine
Co., 2016 WL 1626988, *4-6).
DISCUSSION OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE
answer lists eight affirmative defenses. To evaluate the
merits of Plaintiff's motion to strike, each of
Defendant's affirmative defenses will be discussed in
First Affirmative Defense: Not Entitled to Punitive
Defendant's first affirmative defense, he states
“Plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages because
this answering Defendant did not act with malicious intent to
deprive him of any constitutional right or to cause any other
injury.” (ECF No. 29, p. 5.) Plaintiff argues this
defense is merely “an assertion that the [plaintiff]
cannot prove the elements of [his or] her claim.” (ECF
No. 31, p. 4).
‘[a]ffirmative defenses plead matters extraneous to the
plaintiff's prima facie case, which deny plaintiff's
right to recover, even if the allegations of the complaint
are true.” Leos v. Rasey, No.
1:14-CV-02029-LJO-JLT-PC, 2016 WL 1162658, at *2 (E.D. Cal.
Mar. 24, 2016) (citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Main
Hurdman, 655 F.Supp. 259, 262 (E.D. Cal. 1987)). In
contrast to these defenses, “a denial of allegations in
the complaint or ‘an assertion that the [plaintiff]
cannot prove the elements of [its] claim' is not a proper
affirmative defense.” Id. (citing Solis v.
Couturier, No. 2:08-CV-02732-RRB-GGH, 2009 WL 2022343,
at *3 (E.D. Cal. July 8, 2009)).
such, the Court recommends the first affirmative defense be
stricken without leave to amend. Defendant can contest
punitive damages in the ordinary ...