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Merritt v. Con-Way Central Express

October 5, 2006

JIM MERRITT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CON-WAY CENTRAL EXPRESS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Holschuh

OPINION AND ORDER

This case was initiated by plaintiff, Jim Merritt, alleging violations of federal and state law arising out of his employment with the defendant. Defendants Con-Way Central Express ("CCX"), Paul Anderson, and Stephen Smigielski filed a motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). For the following reasons, defendants' motion for a more definite statement will be denied.

I.

On April 14, 2006, Mr. Merritt filed an action against CCX, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Smigielski, and Mr. Leathers in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas asserting claims of discrimination and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA") and state law. Subsequently, the case was removed to this Court.

Mr. Merritt's Complaint contains eight counts. The initial twenty-one paragraphs of the Complaint, enclosed within a section entitled "Facts Common to All Claims," are comprised of allegations of fact which are then incorporated into all eight numbered counts. Within this introductory section, Mr. Merritt states that Messrs. Leathers, Anderson, and Smigielski served in supervisory roles as CCX employees and exercised significant control over Mr. Merritt's hiring, firing, or conditions of employment. (Complaint ¶ 2). Mr. Merritt subsequently describes the events surrounding his hiring, participation in a work-related accident, assault by a co-worker, incidents relating to his medical condition, and events surrounding the termination of his employment. (See Complaint at ¶¶ 7-21). Mr. Merritt uses the term "defendants" to refer to the defendant actor(s) in each of the aforementioned events. (See Complaint at ¶¶ 10-21).

In the thirty-three paragraphs following the "Facts Common to All Claims," Mr. Merritt outlines the eight counts of his complaint. Count I is asserted solely against CCX and alleges violations of the FMLA. Counts II-VIII are asserted against "All Defendants" and allege employment discrimination and retaliation under O.R.C. §§ 4112.02(A) & (I), as well as negligence, invasion of privacy, and various other violations of Ohio public policy in the employment context "as evidenced by statutes, regulations and the Constitution." (Complaint at ¶¶ 44, 48 & 52).

On May 23, 2006, CCX, Mr. Anderson, and Mr. Smigielski filed a motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). CCX, Mr. Anderson, and Mr. Smigielski assert that they are unable to frame a responsive pleading because the Complaint fails to (1) allege the wrongful actions specifically undertaken by each defendant and (2) specifically identify the legal foundation of the alleged public policy violations. The issue is fully briefed and the motion is ripe for adjudication.

II.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) states, in pertinent part:

If a pleading...is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading. The motion shall point out the defects complained of and the details desired.

A motion for more definite statement "is designed to strike at unintelligibility rather than simple want of detail...[It] must be denied where the subject complaint is not so vague or ambiguous as to make it unreasonable to use pretrial devices to fill any possible gaps in detail." Jakovich v. Hill, Stonestreet & Co., No. 1:05 CV 2126, 2005 WL 3262953, *3 (N.D.Ohio Nov. 30, 2005)(quoting Scarbrough v. R-Way Furniture Co., 105 F.R.D. 90, 91 (E.D.Wis. 1985)).

Furthermore, "notice pleading" standards of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) do not "require a claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim. To the contrary, all the Rules require is a 'short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). That fair notice can be provided through "either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery." In re Commonwealth Ins. Secs., Inc., 394 F.3d 401, 405-06 (6th Cir. 2005)(quoting Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988)). The notice pleading requirement "relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). In light of the modern practice of notice pleading and the availability of pretrial discovery procedures, Rule 12(e) motions are not favored by courts. See, e.g., Innovative Digital Equipment, Inc. v. Quantum Tech., Inc., 597 F.Supp. 983, 989 (N.D.Ohio 1984)("Rule 12(e) motions for more definite statement are not to be used as a substitute for discovery"); see also Usery v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 72 F.R.D. 581 (W.D.Okla. 1976).

A.

Defendants argue that the Complaint is too vague and ambiguous to frame a responsive pleading because they are unable to tell which defendant is alleged ...


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