Plaintiff’s Failure to Fix Rambling Complaint Dooms Case

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By Bernie Pazanowski

The district court had discretion to dismiss with prejudice shotgun pleadings a plaintiff failed to properly amend, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said Jan. 3.

Shotgun pleadings contain excessive facts and are usually disorganized. The district court called the pleadings here “duplicative,” “inconsistent,” and “wholly conclusory.”

Nevertheless, the lower court gave the plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, an opportunity to amend his pleadings and told him how to fix them. That the amendments failed to clarify his rambling irrelevancies and made the pleadings worse, warranted the dismissal, the appeals court said in an opinion by Judge Charles R. Wilson.

Shotgun pleadings violate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires a short, plain statement of the pleader’s claim. But the plaintiff argued that pleadings can’t be dismissed under the rule unless the court finds evidence of bad faith.

Bad faith isn’t required, the appeals court said. When a plaintiff files shotgun pleadings, is represented by counsel, and doesn’t request leave to amend, a district court of its own accord must give him a chance to amend, it said. In the repleading order, the lower court should explain how the pleadings violate Rule 8, it added. If the opportunity to replead passes, the district court may dismiss the pleadings with prejudice if the plaintiff neither filed compliant pleadings nor asked for leave to amend, it said.

Judges Robin S. Rosenbaum and Roger W. Titus, sitting by designation, joined the opinion.

Torrence E.S. Lewis, Pittsburgh, argued for the plaintiff. McDonald Hopkins, LLC and Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, PA argued for the defendants.

The case is Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets , 2018 BL 1399, 11th Cir., No. 16-15276, 1/3/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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