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Mister v. Dart

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.

June 26, 2014

RUFUS MISTER, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County; COUNTY OF COOK, a local public entity under the laws of the State of Illinois; KATINA M. BONAPARTE, M.D., individually and in her official capacity; SCOTT BRATLIEN, Superintendent, individually and in his official capacity; CONCETTA C. MENNELLA, M.D., individually and in her official capacity; and MENNELLARAMONDA AUSTIN, R.N., individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Rufus Mister has moved to strike the affirmative defenses raised in the Answers filed by Defendants Thomas Dart, Scott Bratlien, Katina Bonaparte, Mennellaramonda Austin, and the County of Cook, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), as insufficient as a matter of law. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion is denied in part and granted in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a wheelchair-bound pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, alleges that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his health and safety by failing to provide him with adequate medical treatment and equipment, in violation of the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. ( See Am. Comp.) Defendants Dart and Bratlien (the "Sheriff Defendants") filed an Answer that asserts seven affirmative defenses. Defendants County of Cook, Bonaparte, and Austin (the "Cook County Defendants") filed an Answer that asserts the same seven defenses and two additional defenses. Defendant Concetta Mennella has not filed an appearance or answer. In response to Plaintiff's Motion, Defendants have voluntarily withdrawn their fourth and sixth affirmative defenses. Furthermore, the Cook County Defendants have failed to respond to Plaintiff's Motion with respect to their eighth and ninth affirmative defenses.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule 12(f), a court "may 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 will not be granted unless it appears to a certainty that plaintiffs would succeed despite any state of the facts which could be proved in support of the defense." Williams v. Jader Fuel Co., 944 F.2d 1388, 1400 (7th Cir. 1991) (internal citations and quotations omitted). However, "[i]t is appropriate for the court to strike affirmative defenses that add unnecessary clutter to a case." Davis v. Elite Mortgage Servs., 592 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1058 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (internal citations omitted).

"Affirmative defenses will be stricken only when they are insufficient on the face of the pleadings." Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). Affirmative defenses are pleadings subject to Rule 8 and must provide a short and plain statement that gives a plaintiff notice of the basis for the defense. Id .; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). "Ordinarily, defenses will not be struck if they are sufficient as a matter of law or if they present questions of law or fact." Heller, 883 F.2d at 1294. However, bare bones conclusory legal statements are insufficient to present an affirmative defense. Id. at 1295. A district court has "considerable discretion" whether to strike defenses under Rule 12(f). Delta Consulting Grp. Inc. v. R. Randle Constr., Inc., 554 F.3d 1133, 1141 (7th Cir. 2009).

ANALYSIS

First Affirmative Defense

Defendants' first affirmative defense asserts: "[a] supervisory official cannot be held liable for the conduct of subordinates based on a theory of respondeat superior. " Plaintiff argues that this defense is only a bare bone conclusory statement and lacks a short and plain statement in violation of Rule 8. Plaintiff further argues that this defense merely infers that Plaintiff cannot prove the necessary elements of his claim under § 1983. Defendants have made no factual assertions in this defense; rather, it is merely a conclusory bare bones statement and does not provide Plaintiff with sufficient notice of the defense. See Heller, 883 F.2d at 1295. Defendants' first affirmative defense is stricken without prejudice.

Second Affirmative Defense

Defendants' second affirmative defense asserts: "Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)." Plaintiff moves to strike Defendants' second affirmative defense on the grounds that it is not an affirmative defense at all, but rather, a negative defense. Plaintiff further argues that prisoners seeking monetary relief are not required to exhaust their administrative remedies when filing civil rights actions.

An affirmative defense "is one that admits the allegations in the complaint, but avoids liability, in whole or in part, by new allegations of excuse, justification or other negating matters." Riemer v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., 274 F.R.D. 637, 639 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (internal citations omitted). In contrast, a negative defense is an attack on a plaintiff's prima facie case. Id. "A failure to exhaust is normally considered to be an affirmative defense." Mosely v. Bd. of Educ., 434 F.3d 527, 533 (7th Cir. 2006). This defense is sufficiently pled as an affirmative defense ...


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