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Goldsmith v. Lee Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 15, 2019

STEVEN GOLDSMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE ENTERPRISES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Steven Goldsmith's Motion to Strike Defendants' Answer [Doc. No. 19] and Motion to Strike Defendants' Affirmative Defenses [Doc. No. 20]. Defendants oppose each Motion, and the matters are fully briefed. For the reasons articulated below, Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Answer is denied, and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Affirmative Defenses is denied in part and granted in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff initially filed a Petition in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Defendants removed the action to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446, and the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d) and 1453. Plaintiff filed his six-count First Amended Class Action Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) with this Court on July 3, 2019. Defendants filed their Answer including affirmative defenses on July 16.

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants overcharged him and other similarly situated St. Louis Post-Dispatch subscribers by “double billing, ” that is, including the same day in more than one billing period. Plaintiff alleges breach of contract (Count I), breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), unjust enrichment (Count III), money had and received (Count IV), violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, §407.010 et seq. (“MMPA”) by means of unfair practices (Count V), and violation of the MMPA by means of deception (Count VI).

         In their Answer, Defendants deny Plaintiff's allegations regarding improper or double billing. They also deny the allegation that they acted unethically or unlawfully. The Answer sets forth 16 paragraphs of affirmative defenses, 12 of which Plaintiff now moves to strike. Plaintiff also moves to strike 19 paragraphs from Defendants' Answer.

         Discussion

         Under Rule 12(f), “[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” The Court enjoys liberal discretion in resolving a motion to strike. Stanbury Law Firm v. Internal Revenue Serv., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000). “In ruling on a motion to strike, the Court views the pleadings in the light most favorable to the pleader.” Speraneo v. Zeus Tech., Inc., 4:12CV578 JAR, 2012 WL 2117872, at *1 (E.D. Mo. June 11, 2012) (citing Cynergy Ergonomics, Inc. v. Ergonomic Partners, Inc., 2008 WL 2817106, at *2 (E.D. Mo. July 21, 2008)).

         Motions to strike are “viewed with disfavor and are infrequently granted.” Stanbury Law Firm, 221 F.3d at 1063 (quotations omitted). Criticizing motions to strike, District Courts have stated that “motions to strike can be nothing other than distractions. If a defense is clearly irrelevant, then it will likely never be raised again by the defendant and can be safely ignored. If a defense may be relevant, then there are other contexts in which the sufficiency of the defense can be more thoroughly tested with the benefit of a fuller record-such as on a motion for summary judgment.” Shirrell v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., No. 1:13CV42 SNLJ, 2013 WL 3457010, at *1 (E.D. Mo. July 9, 2013) (quoting Morgan v. Midwest Neurosurgeons, LLC, No. 1:11CV37 CEJ, 2011 WL 2728334, *1 (E.D. Mo. July 12, 2011)); Speraneo v. Zeus Tech., Inc., 4:12CV578 JAR, 2012 WL 2117872, *1 (E.D. Mo. June 11, 2012) (quoting same).

         When moving to strike an answer, “a plaintiff must show that the allegations being challenged in the defendant's answer are ‘so unrelated to the plaintiff's claims as to be unworthy of any consideration as a defense and that their presence in the pleading throughout the proceeding will be prejudicial to the moving party.”' Sobba v. Elmen, 462 F.Supp.2d 944, 946 (E.D. Ark. 2006) (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1382 (3d. ed. 2004)). “A motion to strike an affirmative defense should not be granted ‘unless, as a matter of law, the defense cannot succeed under any circumstances or is immaterial in that it has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief.'” Speraneo, 2012 WL 2117872, at *1 (quoting Cynergy Ergonomics, 2008 WL 2817106, at *2, and citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Coble, 720 F.Supp. 748, 750 (E.D. Mo.1989)).

         In order to prevail on a 12(f) motion, the moving party must also show prejudice. U.S. Liability Ins. Co. v. Global Acquisitions, LLC, No. 4:14CV1887 RWS, 2015 WL 2354063, at *1 (E.D. Mo. May 15, 2015). “The prejudice requirement is satisfied if striking the defense would, for example, prevent a party from engaging in burdensome discovery, or otherwise expending time and resources litigating irrelevant issues that will not affect the case's outcome.” Cynergy Ergonomics, 2008 WL 2817106, at *2.

         Motion to Strike Defendants' Answer

         Plaintiff moves to strike paragraphs 37-55 from Defendants' Answer. These paragraphs respond to Plaintiff's allegations regarding the purported ethical standards of the Direct Marketing Association and American Marketing Association. To each of these allegations, Defendants replied:

Defendants deny double-billing or improperly billing subscribers for newspapers and related materials they receive; deny that they ever acted unethically or unlawfully; deny that [DMA or AMA] principles establish any legal or ethical duty Defendants owe subscribers; deny that [DMA or AMA] principles are relevant or material herein; deny that they violated any [DMA or AMA] principle or standard; deny that they ever represented that they adhered to any [DMA or AMA] ...

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