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Cooper v. City of Alva

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 31, 2019

JADE A. COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF ALVA, OKLAHOMA, a municipal corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses (Doc. No. 13). Defendant has responded (Doc. No. 17), and Plaintiff has replied (Doc. No. 18).

         BACKGROUND

         In this action, Plaintiff brings claims for violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and Oklahoma's Anti-Discrimination Act (“OADA”) based on gender discrimination. Plaintiff alleges she was terminated because of her pregnancy in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation. Compl. (Doc. No. 1) ¶¶ 3, 15. Defendant filed its Answer (Doc. No. 7) to the Complaint on March 15, 2019.

         In her Motion, Plaintiff argues that defenses 4 and 7 of the Defendants' Answer should be stricken as “legally deficient or insufficiently pled.” Pl.'s Mot. at 2. These defenses allege:

4. Plaintiff's claims may be time barred.
7. To Defendant's knowledge, Plaintiff did not comply with the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, and compliance with it is a prerequisite to suing the City under the OADA.

         Answer at 3, 4. Defendant responds that the Twombly/Iqbal standard does not apply to affirmative defenses and that the challenged defenses provide Plaintiff with fair notice of what defenses and affirmative defenses Defendant will pursue. Def.'s Resp. at 3, 5.

         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, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c)(1). Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Rule 12(f) relief, however, is generally considered a “drastic remedy” and is disfavored. Knighten v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. CIV-17-683-D, 2018 WL 718533, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 5, 2018). “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).[1]

         In view of these considerations, the Court concludes that “at least in the ordinary circumstance, 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-09-0397-HE, 2009 WL 10671291, at *1 (W.D. Okla. July 30, 2009). A bare, laundry-list recitation of inapplicable defenses, however, is clearly improper. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2) (cautioning that defenses should be “warranted”).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff first objects to Defendant's assertion that “Plaintiff's claims may be time barred, ” stating that this defense fails “to provide even the barest notice of what statute or regulation is actually applicable in this case.” Pl.'s Mot. at 9. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant should be required to identify the statue of limitations referenced in this defense and make a factual showing of why the defense applies. See id. Because Plaintiff brings claims under only two statutes, both of which rely upon the same factual allegations, the Court concludes that Defense No. 4 of untimeliness provides sufficient notice, is sufficiently pled, and should not be stricken. See Duncan v. M.A.R.S., Inc., No. CIV-14-825-D, 2014 WL 5681185, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Nov. 4, 2014) (declining to strike affirmative defense where only one claim was brought).

         Plaintiff next objects that Defendant's contention that “Plaintiff did not comply with the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, and compliance with it is a prerequisite to suing the City under the OADA” is legally insufficient and fails as a matter of law. See Pl.'s Mot. at 10. Plaintiff appears to argue that this defense attempts to immunize Defendant from her federal claim for discrimination under Title VII.[2]See Id. at 10-11. Plaintiff alleges violations of both the OADA and Title VII. See Compl. ΒΆΒΆ ...


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