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Roberts v. Auto Pro's Sales of Rock Hill Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

December 11, 2018

David Roberts, III, Plaintiff,
v.
Auto Pro's Sales of Rock Hill Inc., Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court upon Plaintiff David Roberts, III's Motion to Strike. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff seeks to strike a number of Defendant Auto Pro's Sales of Rock Hill Inc.'s (“Defendant”) affirmative defenses (ECF No. 7), prayer for declaratory judgment (ECF No. 7), and Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7). (ECF No. 10 at 1.) For the reasons stated herein, the court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Strike (ECF No. 10), DENIES Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 7), and GRANTS Defendant's voluntary withdrawal of its prayer for declaratory judgment (ECF No. 16).

         I. JURISDICTION

         The court has original jurisdiction over the federal claims in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the action arises under federal law, specifically 15 U.S.C. § 1643. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the court has supplemental jurisdiction over all state claims because the state and federal claims derive from a common nucleus of operative facts. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff purchased an automobile from Defendant in May 2018. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 5; ECF No. 7 ¶ 4.) The parties agree that on the day of purchase, Plaintiff signed a Retail Installment Contract & Security Agreement (the “Contract”) that indicated $150.00 bi-weekly payments and a total price of $3, 250.00. (ECF No. 1-1.; ECF No. 1 ¶ 6; ECF No. 12 ¶ 5.) A second, unsigned contract for the automobile indicates a total financed amount of $7, 500.00. (ECF No. 1-2.)

         Procedurally, Plaintiff filed his Complaint on August 31, 2018, claiming that Defendant committed fraud, was negligent and reckless. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.) He also alleged that Defendant violated the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1643 et seq.; the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, SC Code Ann. § 39-5-10 et seq. (1985 & Supp. 2017); and the South Carolina Dealer's Act, SC Code Ann. § 56-15-10 et seq. (2006 & Supp. 2015) (ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and demands a jury trial. (Id. at 9-10.) Defendant answered by specifically denying Plaintiff's allegations and asserting a bona fide clerical error was made. (ECF No. 7 ¶¶ 4-5.) Defendant counterclaimed for damages stemming from Plaintiff's alleged breach of contract and unjust enrichment. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Defendant asserted affirmative defenses under the doctrines of breach of contract, unjust enrichment/unclean hands, waiver and estoppel, and wrongdoing and asserted an affirmative defense based on Plaintiff's violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (Id. ¶¶ 21-25.) In his Answer, Defendant included a Motion to Dismiss which the court construes to be under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[1] (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff filed a Motion to Strike: 1) Defendant's affirmative defenses of waiver and estoppel, wrongdoing, and Plaintiff's violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; 2) Defendant's request for declaratory judgment; and 3) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.) Defendant responded by voluntarily withdrawing its request for declaratory judgment. (ECF No. 16.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Motion to Strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f)

         A Rule 12(f) motion allows a federal court, acting on its own or upon a party's motion, to “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Generally, such motions “are only granted when the challenged allegations ‘have no possible relation or logical connection to the subject matter of the controversy' or ‘cause some form of significant prejudice to one or more of the parties to the action.'” Moore v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., No. 1:10-2182-MBS-JRM, 2011 WL 1085650, at *8 (D.S.C. Feb. 10, 2011) (citations omitted). “A motion to strike is a drastic remedy which is disfavored by the courts and infrequently granted.” Clark v. Milam, 152 F.R.D. 66, 70 (S.D. W.Va. 1993). See also Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir. 2001) (“Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor ‘because striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy and because it is often sought by the movant simply as a dilatory tactic.'” (quoting 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380 (2d ed. 1990))).

         A Rule 12(f) motion falls within the discretion of a district court. See Palmetto Pharm. LLC v. Astrazeneca Pharm. LP, No. 2:11-cv-00807-SB-JDA, 2012 WL 6025756, at *4 (D.S.C. Nov. 6, 2012) (citation omitted); Xerox Corp. v. ImaTek, Inc., 220 F.R.D. 241, 243 (D. Md. 2003). “When reviewing a motion to strike, ‘the court must view the pleading under attack in a light most favorable to the pleader.'” Piontek v. Serv. Ctrs. Corp., No. PJM 10-1202, 2010 WL 4449419, at *3 (D. Md. Nov. 5, 2010) (citation omitted).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         When a party files a motion to dismiss contemporaneously with its answer, federal courts should treat the motion to dismiss as seeking a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), rather than as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Walter v. Kelly, 589 F.3d 127, 139 (4th Cir. 2009). See also L. Foster Consulting, LLC v. XL Grp., Inc., No. 3:llcv800-REP, 2012 WL 2785904, at *1 (E.D. Va. 2012). “A motion for judgment on the pleadings made pursuant to Rule 12(c) is decided under the same standard as a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) with the sole difference being that the court is to consider the answer in addition to the complaint.” L. Foster Consulting, LLC, 2012 WL 2785904, at *3 (citing Walter, 589 F.3d at 139).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion “should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would support its claim and would entitle it to relief.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a federal court should accept, as true, all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 1999); Mylan Labs., 7 F.3d at 1134. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim ...


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