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Rivera v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 25, 2019

MELISSA RIVERA AND RICARDO SILVA, SR.
v.
JENNIFER ROBINSON, ET AL

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' Joint Rule 12(f) Motion to Strike Allegations and Exhibits (Rec. Doc. 19) is GRANTED with respect to all challenged allegations and exhibits except allegations relating to Robinson's statements to the police regarding witnesses to the accident, and the State Farm and Church Mutual insurance policies, as more fully set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         This action stems from a motorcycle-automobile accident that occurred on August 25, 2018. The son of plaintiffs', Ricardo Silva, Jr., was driving his motorcycle southbound on Highway 1082 in Covington, Louisiana; defendant Jennifer Robinson was driving her automobile northbound. Despite the fact that they were approaching one another head on, Robinson did not see Silva, and made a left turn into her driveway. Silva collided with the rear right side of Robinson's vehicle. Silva was transported by ambulance to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, where he died approximately one hour later.

         Silva's parents filed the instant wrongful death suit, and defendants answered and filed the instant motion, seeking to strike certain allegations of the complaint, as well as to strike the voluminous exhibits attached to the complaint.

         The allegations defendants seek to strike are as follows: (1) allegations regarding the fact that Robinson was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash; (2) allegations that Robinson had a sun shade on her driver's side window drawn down at the time of the crash; (3) allegations that Robinson lied to police regarding witnesses to the accident; and (4) allegations regarding a claim for loss of future grandchildren. The exhibits defendants seek to strike consist of photographs and videos, the coroner's report, plaintiffs' expert report, the police report, four insurance policies, and Silva's birth and death certificates.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Federal Rule 12(f) standard

         Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may strike “from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Striking a pleading is generally disfavored, and it is "a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for the purposes of justice [and] should be granted only when the pleading to be stricken has no possible relation to the controversy.” Augustus v. Bd. of Pub. Instruction of Escambia Cty., Fla., 306 F.2d 862, 868 (5th Cir. 1962) (quotation omitted); see also, United States v. Coney, 689 F.3d 365, 379 (5th Cir. 2012). The court cannot decide a disputed issue of fact on a motion to strike. Augustus, 306 F.2d at 868. Further, the court should not determine disputed and substantial questions of law when there is no showing of prejudicial harm to the moving party. Id. “Under such circumstances the court [should] defer action on the motion and leave the sufficiency of the allegations for determination on the merits.” Id.

         "Although motions to strike are disfavored and infrequently granted, striking certain allegations can be appropriate when they have no possible relation to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of the parties." American S. Ins. Co. v. Buckley, 748 F.Supp.2d 610, 626-27 (E.D. Tex. 2010). District courts possess considerable discretion in ruling on a motion to strike. Id. at 627 (citations omitted).

         It is usually clear on the face of the pleadings whether the challenged matter should be stricken under Rule 12(f). “Redundant" matter consists of allegations that constitute “a needless repetition of other averments in the pleadings.” 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1382 (3d ed. 2004). “Immaterial” matter is that which “has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded, ” such as superfluous historical allegations, “or a statement of unnecessary particulars in connection with and descriptive of that which is material.” Id. “Impertinent” matter overlaps with “immaterial” matter and “consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question.” Id. Finally, “scandalous” matter “improperly casts a derogatory light on someone, most typically on a party to the action[, ]” but “it is not enough that the matter offends the sensibilities of the objecting party or the person who is the subject of the statements in the pleading, if the challenged allegations describe acts or events that are relevant to the action.” Id. Any doubt about whether the challenged material is redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous should be resolved in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         In this case, several of the challenged allegations should be stricken due to materiality concerns. Whether or not Robinson was wearing a seatbelt has no bearing on plaintiffs' negligence claim, and thus no relation to the controversy. In fact, under La. R.S. 32:295.1(E), in an action to recover damages arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle, "failure to wear a safety belt in violation of this Section shall not be considered evidence of comparative negligence." Thus, the fact that Robinson was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash is immaterial and impertinent.

         ORDER

         Likewise, the allegation that Robinson had an illegal sun shade on her driver's side window drawn down at the time of the crash is immaterial. According to the complaint, the collision occurred after the vehicles were approaching one another head on, and Robinson turned left into her driveway causing Silva to collide with the rear right side of her automobile. There is no issue regarding visibility related to Robinson's left window, ...


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