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Williams v. El Camaron, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 29, 2019




         Plaintiff Bryan Williams (“Plaintiff”) brings this Action against Defendant El Camaron, LLC and Defendant Alysson's Flowers and Gifts (collectively “Defendants”) for unlawful discrimination in places of public accommodation pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”). Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike all of the affirmative defenses that Defendants raised in their Answer (“Motion”) [15]. Having reviewed all papers submitted pertaining to this Motion, the Court NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS: the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 9, 2019, Plaintiff initiated this Action against Defendants. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff, who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair for mobility, alleges that he encountered several barriers to access at Defendants' property, including inaccessible parking spaces, inaccessible paths of entrance, and non-compliant service counters. Id. ¶¶ 2, 13. As a result of his alleged encounter with these barriers, Plaintiff asserts causes of action for discrimination based on disability in violation of the ADA and Unruh Act.

         Defendants filed their Answer on May 13, 2019, asserting ten affirmative defenses. See generally Defs.' Answer (“Answer”), ECF No. 12. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Strike All of Defendants' Affirmative Defenses [15] on June 3, 2019. Defendants filed their Opposition [17] on July 27, 2019, [1] and Plaintiff filed his Reply [19] on July 28, 2019. On July 22, 2019, after the parties fully briefed the instant Motion, Defendants filed a First Amended Answer [23].


         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the Court may “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). “In determining specifically whether a defense is ‘sufficient,' the Ninth Circuit has explained that ‘the key . . . is whether it gives plaintiff fair notice of the defense.” Whiting v. City of Palm Desert, 2018 WL 6034968, at *2 (C.D. cal. May 17, 2018)(quoting Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979)).

         The grounds for a motion to strike must appear on the face of the pleading under attack. SEC v. Sands, 902 F.Supp. 1149, 1165 (C.D. Cal. 1995). In addition, the Court must view the pleading under attack in a light more favorable to the pleader when ruling on a motion to strike. In re, Inc. Sec. Litig., 114 F.Supp.2d 955, 965 (C.D. Cal. 2000) (citing California v. United States, 512 F.Supp. 36, 39 (N.D. Cal. 1981)).

         Motions to strike are generally viewed with disfavor, and will usually be denied unless the allegations in the pleading have no possible relation to the controversy, and may cause prejudice to one of the parties. Travelers Cas. and Sur. Co. of Am. v. Dunmore, No. CIV S-07-2493 LKK/DAD, 2010 WL 5200940, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 15, 2010). “Ultimately, the decision whether to strike a matter lies within the sound discretion of the district court.” Lexington Ins. Co. v. Energetic Lath & Plaster, Inc., No. 15-cv-00861-KJM-EFB, 2015 WL 5436784, at *11 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2015).

         B. Discussion

         On July 22, 2019, after the parties submitted their papers pertaining to the instant Motion, Defendants filed a First Amended Answer. See ECF No. 23. However, the First Amended Answer was not filed in response to an amended complaint, nor made within 21 days after Defendants filed their first Answer, and thus Defendants were required to get Plaintiff's written consent or the Court's approval-which they have failed to do. See Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 15(a). Thus, the Court STRIKES Defendants' First Amended Answer, and proceeds to address the merits of Plaintiff's Motion with respect to the affirmative defenses as stated in Defendants' first Answer.

         Defendants' First Affirmative Defense of failure to state a claim is an assertion of a defect in Plaintiff's prima facie case, and not an affirmative defense. See Zivkovic v. S. Cal. Edison. Co., 302 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002)(“A defense which demonstrates that plaintiff has not met its burden of proof is not an affirmative defense.”). Thus, it fails as a matter of law, and the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the First Affirmative Defense without leave to amend.

         Defendants' Second Affirmative Defense is that Plaintiff has waived any right to recovery by falsifying a claim for having been to Defendants' property. “Waiver is the intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.” United States v. Perez, 116 F.3d 840, 845 (9th Cir. 1997)(internal quotations omitted). Even assuming the truth of Defendants' allegation that Plaintiff has not been to the property, it is unclear how this fact shows that Plaintiff has relinquished or abandoned his right to sue. Thus, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Second Affirmative Defense. ...

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