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Wilson v. Tariq

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 13, 2016

MICHAEL WILSON and BETTY WILSON DAVIS, as guardian over the Estate and Person of Michael Wilson, Plaintiffs,
v.
MOHAMMAD ZEESHAN TARIQ and KAHKASHAN TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants, MOHAMMAD ZEESHAN TARIQ and KAHKASHAN TRANSPORTATION, INC., Counter-Claimants,
v.
MICHAEL WILSON, Counter-Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike [DE 24], filed by Plaintiffs on May 3, 2016. Plaintiffs ask that the Court strike from Defendants' Answer [DE 23] three affirmative defenses. On May 16, 2016, Defendants filed a response [DE 27], and on May 23, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their reply [DE 28].

         I. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that a “court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are generally disfavored, but when striking portions of a pleading “remove[s] unnecessary clutter from the case, ” the motion may “serve to expedite, not delay.” Heller v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). Ultimately, whether to strike material under Rule 12(f) is within the sound discretion of the Court. Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 1992).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff Michael Wilson (“Michael”) was injured when his car collided with a semi-truck owned and operated by Defendants. Defendants assert twelve affirmative defenses, three of which are the subject of Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike.

         A. Third Affirmative Defense

         In their third affirmative defense, Defendants allege that Michael's injuries were caused by an inoperable air bag, and that Hyundai Corporation, as the “designer and manufacturer” of Michael's car, was responsible for his injuries. Plaintiffs argue that Defendants are barred from asserting this nonparty defense under Indiana's Comparative Fault Act.

         Under the Comparative Fault Act, a defendant “in an action based on fault . . . may assert as a defense that the damages of the claimant were caused in full or in part by a nonparty.” Ind. Code § 34-51-2-14. For the purposes of the Act, “nonparty” is defined as “a person who caused or contributed to cause the alleged injury, death, or damage to property but who has not been joined in the action as a defendant.” Ind. Code § 34-6-2-88.

         The Comparative Fault Act contains multiple limitations on how and when a defendant may assert a nonparty defense. Under § 34-51-2-16, a “nonparty defense that is known by the defendant when the defendant files the defendant's first answer shall be pleaded as a part of the first answer.” But where a defendant “gains actual knowledge of a nonparty defense after the filing of an answer, ” that defendant “may plead the defense with reasonable promptness.” Ind. Code § 34-51-2-16.

         Here, Defendants did not include the Hyundai nonparty defense in their first Answer. However, in a Motion to Amend [DE 15] their original answer, Defendants represented that they did not discover the alleged airbag defect until they conducted discovery in this case. Ultimately, the Court denied Defendants' Motion to Amend as moot [DE 21], since Plaintiffs moved to amend the original complaint. Accordingly, the Court finds that, although Defendants did not assert the nonparty defense in their “first answer, ” they pleaded the defense with “reasonable promptness” after “gain[ing] actual knowledge of a nonparty defense” through discovery in this case, satisfying the requirements of the Comparative Fault Act.

         However, in certain situations, the Comparative Fault Act imposes additional requirements on a defendant pleading a nonparty defense. Section 34-51-2-16 (“Section 16”) provides, in relevant part:

         However, if the defendant was served with a complaint and summons more than one hundred fifty (150) days before the expiration of the limitation of action applicable to the claimant's claim against the nonparty, the defendant shall plead any nonparty defense not later than forty-five (45) days before the expiration of that limitation of action. The trial court may ...


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