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Bruegge v. Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 9, 2014

ROBERT T. BRUEGGE, Trustee in the Matter of Anthony Clow, Debtor,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss the affirmative defenses asserted by defendant Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company ("MCIC") (Doc. 22). MCIC has responded to the motion (Doc. 23).

I. Standard

As a preliminary matter, the plaintiffs cite Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) as the authority for dismissal of an affirmative defense. However, the Rule 12(b)(6) defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is designed to challenge claims for relief, and an affirmative defense is not a claim for relief but a defense to a claim for relief. Therefore, Rule 12(b)(6) does not apply to the plaintiffs' request. Rather, a motion to strike under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) is the proper authority to dispose of an affirmative defense. The Court will therefore construe the plaintiffs' motion as pursuant to Rule 12(f).

Under Rule 12(f), upon a motion or upon its own initiative, "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." The failure to plead an affirmative defense in compliance with the pleading standards of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 9 can render an affirmative defense insufficient and subject to striking. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). Motions to strike, however, are generally disfavored because they are often employed for the sole purpose of causing delay. See id. For this reason, this Court and others have held that a party must show prejudice to succeed on a motion to strike. See, e.g., Anderson v. Bd. of Educ. of Chi., 169 F.Supp.2d 864, 867 (N.D. Ill. 2001); see also Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 664 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court should not strike matter from a pleading pursuant to Rule 12(f) "unless the challenged allegations have no possible relation or logical connection to the subject matter of the controversy and may cause some form of significant prejudice to one or more of the parties to the action." 5C Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1382 (3d ed.); accord Anderson, 169 F.Supp.2d at 867-68. The burden on a motion to strike is upon the moving party. See Vakharia v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp. & Health Care Ctrs., 2 F.Supp.2d 1028 (N.D. Ill. 1998).

II. Background

Plaintiffs Robert T. Bruegge, as trustee of the bankruptcy estate of Anthony Clow, and Clow, individually, have sued MCIC for breach of a renter's insurance contract (Count III) and for bad faith failure to pay a claim (Count IV). They allege that Clow suffered loss of or damage to his insured personal property in a fire and that MCIC failed to pay his claim for that loss. In response, MCIC has alleged the affirmative defenses of judicial estoppel and fraud/misrepresentation.[1] MCIC alleges that several months before Clow's loss, he had declared under oath to the Bankruptcy Court that the value of his personal property was $7, 340 but claimed a loss of more than $125, 000 worth of property in his insurance claim.

III. Analysis

The Court will address each affirmative defense in turn.

A. Judicial Estoppel

"The equitable common law doctrine of judicial estoppel prevents a party from asserting inconsistent positions before courts in separate proceedings in order to receive favorable judgments in each proceeding." Ceres Terminals, Inc. v. Chicago City Bank & Trust Co., 635 N.E.2d 485, 494 (Ill.App.Ct. 1994). For judicial estoppel to apply:

"(1) the two positions must be taken by the same party; (2) the positions must be taken in judicial proceedings; (3) the positions must be given under oath; (4) the party must have successfully maintained the first position, and received some benefit thereby; and (5) the two positions must be totally inconsistent."

Id. at 495 (quoting Parisi v. Jenkins, 603 N.E.2d 566, 573-74 (Ill.App.Ct. 1992)) (further internal quotations omitted).

MCIC pleads in its affirmative defense that Clow's sworn representation to the Bankruptcy Court that his personal property was worth $7, 340 judicially estops him from claiming in this forum that the value of his lost personal property several months later was worth more than $125, 000. The plaintiffs argue this affirmative defense must be stricken because Clow's valuations of his property at the various points in time are only his personal opinions and reflect the ...

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