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Bryson v. Benchmark Management Corporation

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

March 12, 2015

JEFFERY E. BRYSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BENCHMARK MANAGEMENT CORPORATION AND PAUL LOUISE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Jeffery E. Bryson ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against Defendants, Benchmark Management Corporation and Paul Louise ("Defendants, " respectively "Benchmark" and "Louise"), alleging two causes of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"). Defendants' answer generally denied the allegations of the complaint and asserted eight affirmative defenses. Presently before us is Plaintiff's motion to strike Defendants' affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8, 9, and 12. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' affirmative defenses "are insufficient on their face" and "are either bare-bones conclusory allegations or hypothetical assertions that do not reflect any facts or knowledge of the Defendants." (Mot. ¶ 3.)

For the reasons set forth below, we grant Plaintiff's motion in part. Affirmative defenses 2, 4, and 7 are stricken. Affirmative defense 8 and the objection to affirmative defense 3 were voluntarily withdrawn. Affirmative defenses 1, 3, 5, and 6 remain.

BACKGROUND

From October 2008 to July 20, 2012, Plaintiff was employed as a Service Technician ith Benchmark. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff provided maintenance services at the Cedar Ridge Apartments in Richton Park, Illinois, and was the only African-American employee in his department. ( Id. ) Louise was Plaintiff's supervisor on the job and collected Plaintiff's time sheets, assigned work locations, and prescribed day-to-day activities. ( Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Louise harassed him with "racial slurs, jokes, and derogatory statements regarding African-Americans." ( Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff also alleges that Louise hid tools and keys from him to prevent him from performing his job. ( Id. ) In addition, Plaintiff claims that Louise manipulated the work orders to ensure that Plaintiff received the hardest tasks. ( Id. ) Plaintiff complained repeatedly to the on-site Property Manager with regard to the alleged racial harassment and mistreatment. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Louise received a formal written reprimand; however, Plaintiff alleges that Louise's discriminatory and harassing conduct continued. ( Id. )

Plaintiff claims that while working on July 14, 2013 he cleaned out the garage and gave four discarded air conditioning units to a junk man who routinely picked-up discarded metal appliances from the complex. ( Id. ¶ 9.) He alleges that Louise, however, reported to Benchmark management that Plaintiff had stolen the air conditioning units. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff was then terminated on July 20, 2012. ( Id. )

Plaintiff filed suit on October 14, 2014. He claims that Defendants intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of his race and retaliated against him by terminating his employment after he complained to management about racial harassment and abuse. ( Id. ¶¶ 12, 14.) As relief for these injuries, he seeks reinstatement to his former position with comparable salary and benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Defendants raise a number of affirmative defenses in their answer, which we address below.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c) requires parties to raise any affirmative defenses in their responsive pleadings and lists nineteen defenses that must be plead affirmatively. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c). Affirmative defenses are pleadings and are thus subject to all pleading requirements. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989); Bobbitt v. Victorian House, Inc., 532 F.Supp. 734, 737 (N.D. Ill. 1982).

Rule 12(f) permits a plaintiff to move to strike an affirmative defense. Intercon Solutions, Inc. v. Basel Action Network, 969 F.Supp.2d 1026, 1059 (N.D. Ill. 2013); Van Schouwen v. Connaught Corp., 782 F.Supp. 1240, 1245 (N.D. Ill. 1991). Under Rule 12(f), the court "may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f); Van Schouwen, 782 F.Supp. at 1245. Motions to strike are generally disfavored because they potentially serve only to delay. Heller, 883 F.2d at 1294 (citing United States v. 416.81 Acres of Land, 514 F.2d 627, 631 (7th Cir. 1975)). When they "remove unnecessary clutter, " however, they can serve to expedite the case. Heller, 883 F.2d at 1294.

Generally, an affirmative defense will not be stricken if it is "sufficient as a matter of law" or if it presents "questions of law or fact." Id .; see also Williams v. Jader Fuel Co., 944 F.2d 1388, 1400 (7th Cir. 1991) ("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." (internal quotations omitted)). The notice pleading standard requires the defendant to put the plaintiff on notice of the defenses asserted, but does not require the defendant to assert "specific facts or legal theories." Beanstalk Group, Inc. v. AM Gen. Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 868 (7th Cir. 2002); Aller-Caire, Inc. v. American Textile Co., No. 07 C 4086, 2009 WL 331532, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2009). To survive a motion to strike, an affirmative defense must be: (1) appropriately pleaded as an affirmative defense; (2) adequately plead pursuant to the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 9; and

(3) sufficiently plead under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Reis Robotics USA, Inc. v. Concept Indus., Inc., 462 F.Supp.2d 897, 905 (N.D. Ill. 2006); see also Franklin Capital Corp. v. Baker & Taylor Entm't, Inc., No. 99 C 8237, 2000 WL 1222043, at * 2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 22, 2000); Bobbitt, 532 F.Supp. at 737.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff moves to strike Defendants' affirmative defenses 1 to 8. In response, Defendants withdrew affirmative defense 8, and in reply, Plaintiff withdrew his motion to strike affirmative defense 3. Accordingly, we deny the motion as moot with respect to affirmative ...


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