Rule 12(f) Motions to Strike and 12(e) Motions for a More Definite Statement — Standards

From Kauinui v. Citibank (South Dakota), N.A., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100765 (D. Hawaii Oct. 28, 2009):

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f), the Court may strike "from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). This includes striking parts of the prayer for relief when the relief sought is "not recoverable as a matter of law." Schabaz v. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 586 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 1209 (C.D. Cal. 2008) (citations omitted). When ruling on a motion to strike, the Court takes the plaintiff's allegations as true and must liberally construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969); see also Argabright v. United States, 35 F.3d 472, 474 (9th Cir. 1994). Motions to strike are disfavored as a "[m]atter will not be stricken from a pleading unless it is clear that it can have no possible bearing upon the subject matter of the litigation." Wailua Assocs. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 27 F. Supp. 2d 1211, 1216 (D. Haw. 1998) (citations omitted). ***

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) provides as follows:

If a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). Thus, if a plaintiff's complaint meets the notice requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and the defendant is provided with a sufficient basis to respond, the proper avenue for eliciting additional detail is not through a motion for a more definite statement, but instead through discovery. Wangler v. Hawaiian Electric Co., Inc., 742 F. Supp. 1458, 1464 (D. Haw. 1990). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a "short and plain statement of the claim" that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the ground upon which it rests. Datagate, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 941 F.2d 864, 870 (9th Cir. 1991).

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