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Nwachukwu v. Karl

June 18, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No.: 42




This action arises out of a former attorney-client relationship between the parties. In a prior relationship, the pro se plaintiff hired the defendant as his attorney. He now alleges that the defendant committed various misdeeds as the plaintiff's lawyer. The matter comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion to strike the defendant's answer to the plaintiff's amended complaint. Because the plaintiff's objections to the defendant's answer lack merit, the court denies the plaintiff's motion.


The litigation underlying the present action involved injuries caused to the plaintiff by a car accident on October 1, 1994. Am. Compl. at 3. The plaintiff retained the legal services of the defendant in December 1997 to aid him in litigation stemming from those injuries. Id. at 4. At some point, the parties' relationship deteriorated, ultimately resulting in the plaintiff lodging complaints against the defendant with the District of Columbia Bar and filing a complaint with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging abdication of fiduciary responsibility, negligence, misrepresentation, misappropriation of funds, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Compl. at 10-16. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Id. at 16-17.

On March 13, 2002, the defendant removed the action to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Notice of Removal ¶¶ 6-9. Upon removal, the plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to the Superior Court.

Thereafter, the defendant filed motions to dismiss, for judgment on the pleadings, or for summary judgment. The plaintiff then filed motions for summary judgment, for sanctions against the defendant and for an order directing the defendant to serve the plaintiff with filings by certified mail. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated August 26, 2002, the court denied all of the pending motions. Nwachukwu v. Karl, 223 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D.D.C. 2002). Additionally, the court issued an order on October 22, 2002 allowing the plaintiff to amend his complaint by providing the court with dates demonstrating whether the applicable statute of limitations barred the plaintiff's claim for abdication of fiduciary duty. Order dated Oct. 22, 2002. Meanwhile, the defendant filed his original answer to the plaintiff's complaint on September 13, 2002. On November 20, 2002, the plaintiff filed his amended complaint pursuant to the court's October 22, 2002 order. In turn, the defendant filed his answer to the plaintiff's amended complaint (hereinafter "answer") on December 9, 2002.

On February 11, 2003, the plaintiff filed a motion to strike the defendant's answer. The court now addresses that motion.


A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Strike

The decision to grant or deny a motion to strike is vested in the trial judge's sound discretion. Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 664-65 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Alvarado-Morales v. Digital Equip. Corp., 843 F.2d 613, 618 (1st Cir. 1988)). On its own initiative or on a party's motion, the court may strike from a pleading*fn2 any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter in order to avoid the time, effort, and expense necessary to litigate spurious issues. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f); Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, Inc., 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993), rev'd on other grounds, 510 U.S. 517 (1994).

Courts disfavor motions to strike. Stabilisierungsfonds Fur Wein v. Kaiser Stuhl Wine Distribs. Pty. Ltd., 647 F.2d 200, 201 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (citing 5C FED. PRAC. & PROC. 2d § 1380 at 783); accord Morse v. Weingarten, 777 F. Supp. 312, 319 (S.D.N.Y. 1991); Mirshak v. Joyce, 652 F. Supp. 359, 370 (N.D. Ill. 1987); Schramm v. Krischell, 84 F.R.D. 294, 299 (D. Conn. 1979). The rule does not by its terms require the striking of matters that are prejudicial. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f). Yet, because courts view motions to strike with such disfavor, many courts will grant such motions only if the portions sought to be stricken are prejudicial or scandalous. Makuch v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9487, at *7 (D.D.C. Jan. 6, 2000); e.g., Wiggins v. Philip Morris, Inc., 853 F. Supp. 457, 458 (D.D.C. 1994) (Lamberth, J.); see also 5A FED. PRAC. & PROC. 2d ยงยง 1380, ...

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