United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court upon the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission's (“EEOC”) motion to
strike Hackensack Meridian Health, Inc.'s
(“HMH”) affirmative defenses under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(f). There was no oral argument.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below,
EEOC's motion is DENIED.
case arises from an employment discrimination action brought
by EEOC on behalf of Jojy Cheriyan, who is Catholic. Compl.,
ECF No. 1. EEOC alleges that Cheriyan, while working at HMH,
is subjected to a religiously hostile work environment, in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Id.
¶¶ 1, 12. That is the sole cause of action in the
October 19, 2018, HMH filed its Answer and Affirmative
Defenses. ECF No. 8. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(f), EEOC seeks to strike five of HMH's affirmative
defenses, arguing “[e]ach of these defenses is legally
or factually insufficient or duplicative, and the failure to
strike these defenses would unnecessarily delay this action
and prejudice EEOC by requiring it to undergo lengthy and
burdensome discovery on vague, unavailable and unsupportable
defenses.” Pl.'s Mem. 2, ECF No.
has discretion to “strike from a pleading an
insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).
“Motions to strike . . . are not favored and usually
will be denied unless the allegations have no possible
relation to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of
the parties, or if the allegations confuse the issues.”
Tonka Corp. v. Rose Art Indus., Inc., 836 F.Supp.
200, 217 (D.N.J. 1993) (citations omitted). A court may grant
a motion to strike only if “the insufficiency of the
defense is clearly apparent.” Cipollone v. Liggett
Grp., Inc., 789 F.2d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 1986) (citations
omitted) (explaining a court should avoid analyzing
“the merits of a defense where . . . the factual
background for a case is largely undeveloped”). Even if
the facts are undisputed, “Rule 12(f) is not meant to
afford an opportunity to determine disputed and substantial
questions of law.” Tonka Corp., 836 F.Supp. at
218 (citations omitted).
from citing two cases discussing the legal standard on
motions to strike, HMH puts forth no other cases in support
of its arguments. Despite HMH's inability to marshal
arguments with relevant case law, the Court finds EEOC has
failed to show how HMH's asserted affirmative defenses
here provide inadequate notice and cause undue prejudice.
See Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 134-35 (3d
Cir. 2002) (pleading affirmative defenses in an answer serves
“to avoid surprise and undue prejudice” in giving
the plaintiff notice and a chance to show why the defenses
asserts as affirmative defenses: (1) statute of limitations,
(2) failure to mitigate damages, (3) not entitled to
compensatory or punitive damages, (4) not entitled to back or
front pay, and (5) failure to show an adverse employment
action. ECF No. 8. Although these defenses may accomplish
nothing more than to recapitulate HMH's denials of
EEOC's sole hostile work environment claim, rendering
them redundant or irrelevant, the Court finds unavailing the
contention that leaving the defenses in “will
substantially complicate the discovery proceedings and the
issues at trial, ” thereby prejudicing EEOC. See
F.T.C. v. Hope Now Modifications, LLC, Civil No.
09-1204, 2011 WL 883202, at *4 (D.N.J. Mar. 10, 2011)
(citation omitted) (denying motion “to strike defenses
in the absence of a showing of prejudice to the moving
cites Innovative Sports, Management, Inc. v. Neto,
No. 13-1497, 2013 WL 5935982, at *2 (D.N.J. Nov. 1, 2013), to
argue its allegation alone that HMH's defenses would lead
to protracted discovery and needless motion practice is
enough to show undue prejudice, but that case is
distinguishable. In Innovative Sports, Management,
Inc., the court granted plaintiff's motion to strike
34 affirmative defenses since the defenses were
“patently insufficient and [we]re not evidently
applicable to the claims asserted by [p]laintiff.”
Id. For example, one defendant used “the
single words, ‘laches,' ‘license,'
‘payment,' and ‘release,' as individual
affirmative defenses, with no explanation or additional
information whatsoever.” Id. That is not the
case here. There is no “extensive guesswork needed to
understand the nature and scope of each defense.”
See Id. HMH has provided sufficient notice as to
what the defenses entail, shed light on the relevant law it
intends to raise, and given EEOC adequate opportunity to
discern the defenses' viability. See Robinson,
313 F.3d at 135.
EEOC cites no binding precedent to establish how the
“insufficiency of the defense[s] [are] clearly
apparent.” Cipollone, 789 F.2d at 188. The
Court thus denies striking the challenged affirmative
reasons stated above, EEOC's motion to strike is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. ...