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Frisby v. Samco Enterprises Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 15, 2019

TIMOTHY S. FRISBY, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMCO ENTERPRISES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike (Doc. No. 11) certain defenses asserted by Defendant in its Answer (Doc. No. 7). Defendant has filed a Response (Doc. No. 18).[1]

         I. Background

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, his former employer, improperly discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act. See Compl. at 1-2. In its Answer, Defendant raised 18 “affirmative and other defenses, ” see Answer at 3-4. Plaintiff's Motion seeks to strike four of these as legally insufficient and having the potential “to unnecessarily confuse, complicate and prolong the case.” Pl.'s Mot. at 1.

         II. Standard of Decision

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure prescribes that, when responding to a pleading, a party must “state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(A), and must “affirmatively state any avoidance or affirmative defense, ” id. R. 8(c)(1). Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may “strike from a pleading” “an insufficient defense or any redundane, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Id. R. 12(f). Rule 12(f) relief, however, is generally a “drastic remedy” and “must not be granted unless, as a matter of law, the defense cannot succeed under any circumstances.” Knighten v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. CIV-17-683-D, 2018 WL 718533, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 5, 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted).[2] “A defense should not be stricken if there is any real doubt about its validity, and the benefit of any doubt should be given to the pleader.” Sender v. Mann, 423 F.Supp.2d 1155, 1163 (D. Colo. 2006) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted).

“[A] more abbreviated statement of the defense, considered in context with the complaint to which the defenses are addressed, will sufficiently apprise a party of the nature of the defense for pleading purposes.” Henson v. Supplemental Health Care Staffing Specialists, No. CIV-09-397-HE, 2009 WL 10671291, at *1 (W.D. Okla. July 30, 2009). Accordingly, unless the challenged allegations have no possible relation or logical connection to the subject matter of the controversy and may cause come sort of significant prejudice to one or more of the parties to the action a motion to strike should be denied.

Nootbaar v. Alderwoods (Okla.), Inc., No. CIV-19-110-D, 2019 WL 3558182, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Aug. 5, 2019) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Ratification, Waiver, Estoppel, and Laches

         In its Answer, Defendant alleges: “Samco asserts the defense of ratification, waiver, estoppel and laches.” Answer at 3 (No. 7). Plaintiff objects that this “shotgun listing” is insufficient to provide fair notice of its applicability to Plaintiff's claims. Pl.'s Mot. at 4. Defendant objects that these defenses are sufficiently pled “to refute Plaintiff's allegation he was fired because of his age and because he claims he opposed age discrimination.” Def.'s Resp. at 4.

         The Court finds that the listing of these terms, without any accompanying explanation, leaves the “applicability thereof to the claims . . . unclear.” Nootbaar, 2019 WL 3558182, at *3. Defendant shall be permitted to reassert any of these defenses “in a more detailed manner” within the time allowed for amendment of pleadings to be set at the forthcoming status and scheduling conference, however. Id.

         B. Failure to Use Internal Complaint Procedures

         Defendant alleges: “Plaintiff's claims are barred, in whole or in part, as Samco had installed readily accessible employment policies, with supervisory bypass, for reporting and resolving complaints.” Answer at 3 (No. 8). Plaintiff argues that this defense should be stricken because neither an employer's antidiscrimination policy nor an employee's failure to use an employer's grievance procedure constitutes a defense to a claim of discrimination. See Pl.'s Mot. at 5 (citing cases). Defendant responds that the Tenth Circuit actually has applied such a defense in the ...


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