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Munster Steel Co Inc. v. Crane 1 Services Inc.

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

February 4, 2019

MUNSTER STEEL CO., INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CRANE 1 SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants. CRANE 1 SERVICES, INC., Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
CINCINNATI CRANE & HOIST, LLC, Third-Party Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Crane I Services, Inc.'s Motion to Strike Cincinnati Crane & Hoist, LLC's Affirmative Defenses [DE 124], filed December 12, 2018. Third-Party Plainitff Crane 1 Services seeks to strike all of Third-Party Defendant Cincinnati Crane & Hoist's affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Cincinnati filed a response on January 9, 2019, and Crane 1 replied on January 24, 2019.

         I. Standard of Review

          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 Fin., Inc. 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). Because affirmative defenses are pleadings, they must meet all pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including “set[ting] forth a ‘short and plain statement' of the defense.” Heller, 883 F.2d at 1294 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). “[B]are bones conclusory allegations” which “omit[] any short and plain statement of facts and fail[] totally to allege the necessary elements of the alleged claims” will not meet this standard and may be stricken. Id. at 1295.

         II. Analysis

         Crane 1 seeks to strike each of Cincinnati's affirmative defenses. Cincinnati argues that its defenses meet the requisite pleading standard. The Court addresses each in turn.

         A. First Affirmative Defense

         Cincinnati's first affirmative defense states that Crane 1 fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Crane 1 argues that it should be stricken as lacking in factual support. However, the former Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 84, now abrogated, and the accompanying Form 30 in the Appendix to the Rules explicitly provided for an affirmative defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Kimbrew v. Advocate Health & Hosps. Corp., No. 10 C 4531, 2010 WL 5135908, at *1 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 8, 2010) (declining to strike on the grounds that “[the] first defense, however, follows the form set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure”) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. Form 30); Leon v. Jacobson Transp. Co., No. 10 C 4939, 2010 WL 4810600, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 19, 2010) (“[T]his language is specifically listed in Form 30, and Rule 84 explicitly states that the Forms ‘suffice' under the rules.”). Therefore, the Court finds that it suffices under the Rules and will not be stricken.

         B. Second, Tenth, and Twelfth Affirmative Defenses

         Cincinnati's second affirmative defense states that the alleged injuries and damages were caused by “the superseding or intervening conduct of other parties”; its tenth states that Cincinnati is “not a proximate or legal cause of any injury or loss”; and its twelfth states that Crane 1 “does not have standing to assert claims raised in the Complaint.” Crane 1 argues that the second defense is duplicative of the tenth, that lack of standing is not an affirmative defense, and that all three lack factual basis and are redundant given the denials to the allegations in the Complaint. Cincinnati provides no argument as to these affirmative defenses. The Court finds that they do not provide sufficient factual detail.

         C. Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Thirteenth Affirmative Defenses

         Cincinnati's third affirmative defense alleges that Crane 1's claims are limited by its failure to mitigate damages. Its fourth affirmative defense alleges that it is entitled to “apportionment [from other tortfeasors] for that person or entity's percentage of the tortuous conduct.” Its fifth and sixth affirmative defenses state that the claims are barred by “the doctrine of waiver, release, laches, or estoppel” and “Plaintiff's own negligence, fault, laches, or estoppel, ” respectively. Its thirteenth defense states that it has “a right to set off damages.” These amount to a laundry list of would-be defenses, consisting of “nothing but bare bones conclusory allegations” without “any short and plain statement of facts.” Heller, 883 F.2d at 1295. Accordingly, they must be stricken.

         D. Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Affirmative Defenses

         Cincinnati's seventh affirmative defense alleges lack of subject matter and/or personal jurisdiction, and its eighth states that the claims “may be barred because venue is not appropriate in this forum.” Its ninth defense states that the claims “may be barred . . . because Plaintiff has failed to join a necessary party.” These, like Cincinnati's prior defenses, are devoid of factual allegations. Cincinnati argues that jurisdiction, venue, and failure to join are contemplated as affirmative defenses under ...


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