United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE (DOC.
WOLLMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
is Plaintiff Jimmy Hobbs' Motion to Strike a Portion of
Defendant's Answer (Doc. 11). United States District
Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, Chief Judge, referred
Defendant's Motion to this magistrate judge for
determination. (Doc. 24).
a diversity action alleging bad faith insurance practices on
the part of Defendant Employers Mutual Casualty Company. The
action stems from Defendant's alleged bad-faith denial of
Plaintiff Jimmy Hobbs' worker's compensation claim.
moves to strike Paragraphs 8, 10, 11, 13-20, 36, 37, 39, 40,
42, 43, 45-48, 52, 53, 55, and 59-61 of Defendant's
Answer (Doc. 8). Paragraphs 10, 20, 36, 37, 48, 52, and 55
contain language admitting in part and denying in part
Plaintiff's allegations. The remaining disputed
paragraphs contain the language “[the document at
issue] speaks for itself.” Paragraphs 16, 17, and 19
indicate that Defendant is without information sufficient to
form a belief, but the documents would speak for themselves.
argues that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b) requires
Defendant to deny, admit, or indicate that insufficient
information exists to either admit or deny, and the disputed
paragraphs fail to meet this standard. (Doc. 11). Plaintiff
further claims that the response “[the document] speaks
for itself” fails to comply with Rule 8(b) because
Plaintiff cannot determine the extent of Defendant's
purported denials. Defendant responds that its answers meet
Rule 8(b)'s standard.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b) provides the standard for
admitting or denying allegations in a pleading. A party must
state its defenses in short and plain terms, and “admit
or deny the allegations asserted against it by an opposing
party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1). Rule 8(b)(2) merely
requires that denials fairly meet the substance of the
allegations they purport to deny. The Rule further delineates
the manner in which a party may admit or deny allegations: a
party may generally deny all allegations; generally deny all
those except those specifically admitted; specifically deny
designated allegations; or admit in part and deny in part any
specific allegation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(3)- (4). “A
party that lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form
a belief about the truth of an allegation must so state, and
the statement has the effect of a denial.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
do not construe Rule 8(b) strictly, nor require highly
precise denials. See Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ.
§ 1261 (3d Ed.). Rule 8 requires no technical form;
“nomenclature and formal matters should not be
determinative and the intention of the pleader should be
given effect so that a resolution of the merits can be
achieved.” Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1266;
see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). This liberal standard fits
with Rule 1's mandate that the rules be “construed
to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of
every action, ” and the directive in Rule 8(e) that the
“[p]leadings must be construed as to do justice.”
When the pleader's intent is clear, courts disfavor
corrective motions addressed to somewhat ambiguous denials
because they simply create unnecessary delay and expense.
See Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1267.
“Rule 8(b) in conjunction with Rule [8(d)] require that
the answer be framed in short and plain terms . . . Although
it usually is not productive to try and police the pleadings
by motion, a gross violation of this standard would justify a
motion under Rule 12(f), which could result in an order to
strike the pleading or part of it.” Id. §
Rule 12(f), a court may “strike from a pleading . . .
any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous
matter.” The court has discretion to strike portions of
a pleading, but doing so “is an extreme and disfavored
measure.” BJC Health Sys. v. Columbia Cas.
Co., 478 F.3d 908, 907 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotations omitted); see Lunsford v. United States,
570 F.2d 221, 229 (8th Cir. 1977) (stating that motions to
strike are “infrequently granted”). In ruling on a
motion to strike, the court must construe the pleadings in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party; even where
allegations are redundant or immaterial, they should be
stricken only if prejudicial to the moving party. Brown
v. Davis, No. 12-CV-00649, 2012 WL 3578730, at *2 (E.D.
Mo. Aug. 20, 2012) (internal quotations omitted).
argues that Paragraphs 10, 20, 36, 37, 48, 52, and 55 of
Defendant's Answer are “equivocal and
non-responsive and fail to comply with pleading requirements
of Rule 8(b).” (Doc. 12 at p. 15). An example of the
disputed language reads as follows: “With regard to the
allegations in paragraph 10 of plaintiff's Complaint,
defendant admits it had information about activities
plaintiff claimed he completed. That information, without
more, is inconclusive of any claim. Defendant denies the
allegations of paragraph 10 of plaintiff's Complaint and
remits plaintiff to his strict proof.” (Doc. 12 at p.
claims that Defendant's responses in Paragraphs 10, 20,
36, 37, 48, 52, and 55 are equivocal. To the contrary, the
court finds that the disputed responses adequately identify
which part of the allegations Defendant admits and denies,
and comply with the Rules' simple requirements. Under
Rule 8(b), “[a] party that intends in good faith to
deny only part of an allegation must admit the part that is
true and deny the rest.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(4).
“The particular language or form of the specific denial
is not important as long as it is clear which allegations are
being negated and which are not.” Fed. Prac. &
Proc. Civ. § 1266. Plaintiff cites no authority in
support of his position; a mere assertion that the paragraphs
are “equivocal, ” without more, does not show
prejudice. The court finds that the disputed paragraphs meet
Rule 8(b)(4)'s standard. Accordingly, the court denies
Plaintiff's motion to strike as to Paragraphs 10, 20, 36,
37, 48, 52, and 55.
next argues that Rule 8(b) prohibits answers claiming the
documents speak for themselves, and moves to strike
Paragraphs 8, 11, 13-19, 39, 40, 42, 43, 45-47, 53, and 59-61
of the Answer. In support of his motion, Plaintiff relies on
caselaw from the Northern District of Indiana, the Northern
District of Georgia, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and
the Northern District of Illinois. The courts in each of
Plaintiff's cited cases found that similar “speaks
for itself” language violated Rule 8(b)'s pleading
requirements. However, Plaintiff fails to identify a single
Eighth Circuit case in support of his position.
federal district courts have arrived at a conclusion opposite
to that urged by Plaintiff. Within the Eighth Circuit, the
Western District of Missouri has declined to strike responses
stating “the document speaks for itself.”
Thornburg v. Open Dealer Exch., LLC, No. 17-CV-6056,
2018 WL 340050 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 9, 2018); Eternal Invs.,
LLC v. City of Lee's Summit, No. 05-CV-5021, 2006 WL
573919 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 8, 2006). In Thornburg, the
defendant answered certain allegations by stating, “In
response to the [specific allegation], Defendant states that
the document speaks for itself and therefore no response is
required[.]” Thornburg, 2018 WL 340050, at *2.
The plaintiff filed a motion to strike, arguing that the
responses were legally insufficient. The district court
denied the motion, finding that the defendant's
“speaks for itself” responses were “terms
of art that do not prevent Plaintiff from understanding or
comprehending Defendant's answer.” Id. at
*3. The court further stated that “Defendant ...