United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
March 21, 2003
JOHN F. BECKMAN, III, PLAINTIFF,
EDWARD J. PAJIAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge
Edward Pajian ("Pajian") has filed his Answer and Affirmative Defenses to a personal injury Complaint, stemming from a three-vehicle accident, brought by John Beckman, III ("Beckman") against Pajian, Matthew Lane ("Lane") and Pajian Carpets, Inc. ("Pajian Carpets") This memorandum order is issued sin sponte to address some problematic aspects of that responsive pleading.
To begin with, Pajian disclaims under the second sentence of Fed, R. Civ. F, ("Rule") 8(b) any ability to respond to the Complaint's allegations as to Pajian Carpets' state of incorporation and principal place of business. Although that disclaimer is proper in form (see App. ¶ 1 to State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Riley, 199 F.R.D. 276, 279 (N.D. Ill. 2001)), the fact that Pajian and Pajian Carpets share the same proper name would strongly suggest the likelihood that he would have at least enough information to support a belief as to the truth of the allegations. This Court does not of course have any actual knowledge on that score, but the law of probabilities would seem to indicate that Pajian's counsel ought to take a fresh look at the matter.
In somewhat the same vein, if Pajian has knowledge of the severity of the collision (as would seem most likely) such as to confirm the description of Beckman's highly serious injuries as alleged in Complaint ¶ 15, a like Rule 8(b) disclaimer as to the amount-in-controversy allegation of Complaint ¶ 4 would also appear questionable. Again Pajian's counsel must review the matter.
To shift to a pleading locution that is clearly impermissible Pajian cannot decline to answer the jurisdictional allegation of Complaint ¶ 5 on the premise that it "is one of law, not fact, and i-s thus properly neither admitted nor denied?' That is at odds both with the mandate of Rule 8(b) and with the principle that legal conclusions are a perfectly proper part of federal pleading (see App. ¶ 2 to State Farm). Indeed, counsel should take a look at the flat-out admission of jurisdiction that constitutes part of Form 21 of the Appendix of Forms following the Rules, which forms are expressly approved in Rule 84.
What has been said earlier as to Answer ¶ 3 applies with equal force to Answer ¶ 13. Again counsel must take a hard look at the issue.
Answer ¶ 14 is entirely unsatisfactory. Over and above the point made earlier as to the need under the first sentence of Rule 8(b) to answer all of a plaintiff's allegations, a purported denial of the complaint's allegations about Lane's negligence "[t]o the extent that any of the allegations are directed toward this defendant [Pajian]" is nonsensical. Pajian must answer.
Finally, to return to Answer ¶ 15, Pajian may well take the position of denying that Beckman's injuries resulted from Pajian's alleged negligence. But it seems doubtful that an absolute denial of the injuries themselves may be made in the objective good faith required under Rule 11(b)(4).
Because of those numerous flaws in Pajian's Answer, it is stricken in its entirety, but without prejudice to his repleading via a self-contained Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses. Leave is granted to file such a replacement pleading in this Court's chambers (with copies contemporaneously transmitted to counsel for the other parties) on or before April 1, 2003. No charge is to be made to Pajian by its counsel for the added work and expense incurred in correcting counsels errors. Pajian's counsel are ordered to apprise their client to that effect by letter, with a copy to be transmitted to this Courts chambers as an informational matter (not for filing).
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