United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
COURTNEY J. WILSON, Plaintiff,
JEFFERSON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on “Defendant Brock
Bridges' and Possible Defendant Jefferson County
Sheriff's Department's Motion for More Definite
Statement.” Plaintiff filed an untimely response to the
motion for more definite statement, which the Court struck
from the record for filing error. Plaintiff did not seek
leave of Court to file her response and therefore the motion
First Amended Complaint (“complaint”) asserts
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against multiple
defendants in two counts. Plaintiff alleges her Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when she was
arrested without probable cause, subjected to excessive
force, and denied medical care for a head injury she incurred
prior to the arrest.
Bridges' motion for more definite statement argues the
complaint is ambiguous and confusing as pleaded because the
first numbered paragraph of the complaint appears to state
that plaintiff asserts a claim for denial of necessary
medical treatment, but Count I, titled “Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to Unite[d] States Constitution,
Cognizable under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, ” contains
allegations related to denial of medical care, excessive
force, and unlawful arrest; and also appears to assert
Monell claims against defendants Jefferson County
and Sheriff Oliver Boyer. Bridges states there is no prayer
specific to Count I identifying which defendants are included
in the count or specifically indicating the nature of the
claims asserted therein.
Defendant” Jefferson County Sheriff's Department
states it cannot determine whether plaintiff is asserting a
claim against it, as she did in her original complaint, or
whether plaintiff has withdrawn such a claim. Jefferson
County Sheriff's Department states that while it is no
longer listed as a defendant in the case caption, the
complaint includes multiple allegations against the
“Defendant Sheriff's Office, ” see
complaint, ¶¶ 42-44, and is therefore ambiguous.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to contain
a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 12(e) permits
a party to move for a more definite statement if a pleading
is “so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot
reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e).
“A motion for more definite statement is proper when a
party is unable to determine issues he must meet, or where
there is a major ambiguity or omission in the complaint that
renders it unanswerable.” Tinder v. Lewis Cnty.
Nursing Home Dist., 207 F.Supp.2d 951, 959 (E.D. Mo.
2001) (citations omitted). Motions for more definite
statement are not favored “because pleadings are to be
construed liberally to do substantial justice, ” and
Rule 12(e) “is plainly designed to strike at
unintelligibility rather than lack of detail.” James W.
Moore, et al., 2 Moore's Federal Practice,
§ 12.36 (3d ed. 2018).
Court will grant defendant Bridges' motion and allow
plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. Plaintiff appears to
assert numerous potential causes of action against multiple
defendants in Count I, but fails to clearly identify her
claims and the defendants. Neither Count I nor Count II
clearly indicate which defendants the claims are intended to
be asserted against, in part because neither count includes a
prayer for relief identifying the defendants judgment is
sought against in the count. In addition, both Count I and
Count II appear to assert claims for denial of medical care
based at least in part on defendant Bridges' conduct, and
therefore it is not clear what the intended distinctions are
between the counts.
manner in which the complaint is pleaded is such that the
defendants cannot be expected to respond to it. “It is
the plaintiff's burden under both Rule 8 and Rule 11, to
reasonably investigate their claims, to research the relevant
law, to plead only viable claims, and to plead those claims
concisely and clearly, so that a defendant can readily
respond to them and a court can readily resolve them.”
Harper v. Ascension Health Alliance, 2017 WL
6407776, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 15, 2017) (quoted case
omitted). Where a plaintiff fails to plead claims clearly and
concisely, as here, it “unfairly burdens [the
defendants] and the Court because it shifts ‘the burden
of identifying the plaintiff's genuine claims and
determining which of those claims might have legal
support.'” Id. (quoted case omitted).
also unclear whether plaintiff intends to name the Jefferson
County Sheriff's Department as a defendant in her
complaint. If plaintiff intends to name this entity as a
defendant, she must list it in the case caption and
specifically identify it as a defendant in the body of the
complaint. If she does not intend to sue this defendant, she
must not refer to it as a defendant in the complaint.
the Court notes that in the case caption, plaintiff names
defendants “Deputy Brock Bridges, in his official
capacity; Officer Jane Doe, in her official capacity; and
Jailer Jane Doe, in her official capacity, ” but
paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 of the complaint state that these
defendants are sued in their individual capacities. The
individual-official capacity distinction is significant, and
plaintiff must uniformly and consistently plead the capacity
in which she sues each defendant.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Brock
Bridges' and Possible Defendant Jefferson County Sheriff
s Department's Motion for More Definite Statement is
GRANTED. [Doc. 12]
IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall file a
second amended complaint that clearly identifies and pleads
her claims, and otherwise conforms to the Court's Order,
by March 7, 2019.