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United States v. Ringling

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

August 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DONNA J. RINGLING, JOANN JANDREAU, KATHRYN STANDY, and KORY STANDY, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO STRIKE DEFENDANTS JANDREAU'S AND RINGLING'S AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

          KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, United States of America, moves to strike the affirmative defenses made by defendants JoAnn Jandreau and Donna J. Ringling. Defendants oppose the motions. For the following reasons, the United States's motions to strike (Dockets 22 and 25) are denied.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts as alleged in the complaint are:

         Harold Arshem died testate on December 24, 1999, as a resident of Charles Mix County, South Dakota. Docket 1 at 2. Arshem was survived by three daughters: Donna Ringling, Kathy Standy, and JoAnn Jandreau. Id. Arshem was survived by at least one grandson as well: Kory Standy. Id. A federal estate tax return was filed on or about May 15, 2008, “reporting a gross estate of $834, 336.00 and a net estate tax due to the United States of $28, 939.” Id. “On July 14, 2008, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury made assessments against the Estate for estate tax, penalties and interest totaling $65, 874.80, of which $28, 939.00 is estate tax, $13, 746.02 is penalties, and $23, 189.78 is interest.” Id. at 3. This action was commenced on January 23, 2017, against all four defendants to collect the unpaid taxes, penalties and interest. Jandreau alleges in her answer that on or about April 29, 2014, all four defendants met with who they believed to be “a representative of the IRS and were informed that the United States may not take any action against Defendants.” Docket 15 at 4. Jandreau also alleges that an offer to make payment was made to the alleged IRS representative. Id.

         In their answers to the lawsuit, Ringling and Jandreau pleaded the affirmative defenses of estoppel, waiver, and release. Jandreau also pleaded the affirmative defense of accord and satisfaction.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Motions to strike are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), which sets the standard for when a court “may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense . . . .” This includes “any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter” that the court may strike either on a party's motion, or independently on its own. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). While district courts have “liberal discretion in ruling under Rule 12(f)[, ]” the Eighth Circuit has recognized that “[m]otions to strike . . . are viewed with disfavor and infrequently granted.” Stanbury Law Firm v. I.R.S., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000) (quoting Lunsford v. United States, 570 F.2d 221, 229 (8th Cir. 1977)).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants Jandreau and Ringling overlap substantially on their affirmative defenses, so both defendants' defenses will be addressed concurrently. Dockets 15 and 10.

         I. Motion to strike

         A Rule 12(f) motion must be filed within twenty-one days after a pleading has been served. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f)(2). Ringling pleaded affirmative defenses in her response to the complaint on March 22, 2017. Docket 10 at 2. The United States filed its Rule 12(f) motion on May 12, 2017-fifty-one days after the pleading was served. Docket 25-1.

         While the United States's motion to strike Ringling's affirmative defenses was untimely, the Eighth Circuit has stated that because a district court has the authority under Rule 12(f) to act “upon the court's initiative at any time[, ]” the district court has the authority to “ ‘consider untimely motions to strike and to grant them if doing so seems proper . . . .' ” United States v. Lot 65 Pine Meadow, 976 F.2d 1155, 1157 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1380, at 652-54 (2d ed. 1990)). For that reason, this court will consider the United States's motion to strike.

         II. ...


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