United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
MISTY PAYNE, individually, and as next friend of Z.P. PLAINTIFFS
NORFORK SCHOOL DISTRICT; MIKE SEAY, Superintendent, in his official capacity; DEANNA KLAUS, Principal, in her official and individual capacities; SANDRA FARRIS, Teacher in her official and individual capacities; and QBE INSURANCE CORPORATION DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Plaintiff Misty Payne's Motion for
More Definite Statements (Doc. 25)-which appears to have been
inadvertently filed twice at Doc. 26 and docketed the second
time as a "Memorandum Brief in Support"-and Ms.
Payne's Motion to Strike Insufficient Defenses (Doc. 27)
and Brief in Support (Doc. 28). For the reasons given below,
both of these Motions are DENIED.
Payne filed her initial Complaint in the Circuit Court of
Baxter County, Arkansas on May 25, 2018, asserting claims
under a variety of laws, including the Americans with
Disabilities Act, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, and the
Fourth and Eighth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. See Doc. 4. On June 27, Defendant
Norfork School District ("the District") removed
the case to this Court, citing federal question jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. See Doc. 1. The
District filed its Answer to Ms. Payne's Complaint on
July 9. See Doc. 8. The discovery cutoff date is
currently set for January 28, 2019, and the dispositive
motions deadline is February 1, 2019. See Doc. 16,
pp. 2-3. The matter is set for a bench trial in the week
beginning on May 20, 2019. See Id. at 1.
over two weeks ago, on October 29, 2018, Ms. Payne filed an
Amended Complaint adding defendants and claims, see
Doc. 22, to which no responsive pleading has yet been filed
by any defendant. Ms. Payne filed the instant Motions
yesterday, November 13. Her Motion for More Definite
Statements is brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(e), and her Motion to Strike Insufficient Defenses is
brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Both
Motions were moot the instant they landed on the Court's
docket, because they are both premised on claimed
deficiencies in the District's July 9 Answer to Ms.
Payne's original Complaint, which has not been Ms.
Payne's operative complaint since October 29.
Ms. Payne's Rule 12(e) Motion is procedurally improper.
That Rule only authorizes a party to "move for a more
definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive
pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous
that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
response." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) (emphasis
added). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not
ordinarily allow any responsive pleading to an answer, and
the Court has not ordered Ms. Payne to file any reply to the
District's July 9 Answer. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(a)(1)(C). In other words, absent circumstances not present
here, Rule 12(e) does not provide any grounds for seeking a
more definite statement of an answer.
any rate, with one possible caveat, Ms. Payne's Rule
12(e) and Rule 12(f) Motions are also substantively
meritless. With one exception, her objections in these
Motions are to the District's practice of stating in some
paragraphs of its Answer that it "denies the allegations
of paragraph [number in the Complaint]" without any
further elaboration, or that it denies characterizations of
legal authorities in Ms. Payne's Complaint "to the
extent" that those characterizations are
"inconsistent with" the cited authorities. These
are perfectly ordinary and acceptable pleading practices,
seen in nearly every answer that gets filed in this Court.
(For a few such random examples from the Western District of
Arkansas, out of countless ones that could be given, see,
e.g., Kah Dev. 4, LLC v. Stanbrough et al., No.
3:18-cv-3054, Doc. 10, ¶¶ 19-20, 24, 28-32, 34-39,
41-43, 45-46, 48-53; Badley v. Carroll Cnty., Ark. et
al., No. 3:18-cv-3069, Doc. 9, ¶¶ 3-8;
Cook v. Cobb-Vantress, Inc., No. 5:18-cv-5012, Doc.
4, ¶¶ 9, 13-16, 18-19, 22-27, 30-34, 36-38, 40.)
the aforementioned caveat: Ms. Payne's Rule 12(f) Motion
also characterizes the affirmative defenses in paragraph 67
of the District's Answer as "insufficient,"
see Doc. 27, ¶¶ 7(q), 8, and notes that
this Court's Case Management Order imposed a deadline of
October 28, 2018 for the District to "either withdraw
boilerplate affirmative defenses, or amend to add factual
adornment sufficient to place Plaintiff on notice of the
factual basis for the defense," see Id. at
¶ 4; Doc. 16, p. 2. No. such amendment ever occurred.
Again, this is all moot anyway, since the District will soon
be filing an answer to Ms. Payne's Amended Complaint; so
the Court will not make any findings (or require any briefing
from the District) on the sufficiency of the District's
affirmative defenses in its July 9 Answer. But when the
District does file its answer to Ms. Payne's Amended
Complaint, it should take care not merely to nakedly assert
affirmative defenses, without adorning its affirmative
defenses with sufficient facts to place Ms. Payne on notice
of each affirmative defense's factual
THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff Misty Payne's Motion for
More Definite Statements (Doc. 25) and Motion to Strike
Insufficient Defenses (Doc. 27) are both DENIED.
 To be perfectly clear, the Court is
not saying that the District may not make naked
denials of factual allegations. Ms. Payne's
briefing blurs the distinction between denials and defenses,
see, e.g., Doc. 28, ¶ 1, but they are not the
same thing, see, e.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(1)(A),
(B). As discussed above, it is perfectly appropriate and
typical for answers to contain bare ...