United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON STATE'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR STRIKE
DEFENDANT'S COUNTERCLAIMS AND AFFIRMATIVE
J. BRYAN United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff State of
Washington's Motion to Dismiss or Strike Defendant's
Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses. Dkt. 37. The Court
has considered the motion, Defendant The Geo Group,
Inc.'s Response, Plaintiff's Reply, Defendant's
Answer, and the remainder of the file herein. Dkts. 34, 37,
case arises out of the allegation that Defendant failed to
compensate immigration detainees commensurate with the
Washington Minimum Wage Act. See Dkt. 1. The Answer
alleges a counterclaim for Unjust Enrichment-Offset, which
Plaintiff moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt.
37 at 7. The Answer also alleges counterclaims for
declaratory and injunctive relief, which Plaintiff moves to
strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Id. at 11-13.
See Dkt. 34 at ¶¶12.1-12.16 and
12.16.1-12.16.4 (the accompanying prayer for relief). The
Answer raises thirteen affirmative defenses, almost all of
which Plaintiff seeks to strike. Id. at 14. See
alleged in the Answer and procedural history are introduced
below where relevant to discussion of each counterclaim and
COUNTERCLAIMS AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES 8.10
(Plaintiff's unjust enrichment) AND 8.12 (offset)
(Dkt. 34 at ¶¶8.10, 8.12, 11.1-12.16)
Standards for relief.
seeks dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) motions to dismiss may be
based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the
absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal
theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department,
901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Material
allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is
construed in the plaintiff's favor. Keniston v.
Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295 (9thCir. 1983).
“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-55 (2007) (internal
citations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on
the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are
true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555.
The complaint (or counterclaim) must allege “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 547.
also moves to strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). The rule is
designed to help “avoid the expenditure of time and
money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by
dispensing with those issues prior to trial.”
Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970,
973 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Under Rule
12(f), courts may “strike from a pleading an
insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).
Motions to strike are disfavored, because they “may be
used as delaying tactics and because of the strong policy
favoring resolution on the merits.” Barnes v.
AT&T Pension Ben. Plan-Nonbargained Program, 718
F.Supp.2d 1167 (N.D.Cal.2010), citing to Stanbury Law
Firm v. I.R.S., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063
Counterclaim for Unjust Enrichment-Offset and Affirmative
Defenses 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment) and 8.12
(offset) (Dkt. 34 at ¶¶8.10, 8.12,
Unjust Enrichment counterclaim alleges that, as required by
ICE, GEO operates the Voluntary Work Program, which is not
intended to, and does not, create an employer/employee
relationship between GEO and detainees, whose participation
is voluntary. Dkt. 34 at ¶11.1. The program is intended
to promote institutional maintenance and reduce detainee
idleness, it is alleged, with no traditional, standard,
performance metrics used to measure job performance.
Id. at ¶11.3. The counterclaim “does not
seek any positive award . . . against the State[, ]”
but Defendant seeks an offset for the costs of detention not
contemplated in the initial ICE-GEO contract if Plaintiff
prevails and is awarded disgorgement money from Defendant.
Id. at ¶11.7. Such an award would unjustly
enrich Plaintiff with a “windfall” and would
duplicate any award to the plaintiff in Chen v. GEO,
W.D.Wash. Cause No. 3:17-cv-05769-RJB, Defendant alleges.
Id. at ¶¶11.7, 11.8.
separately alleges two related affirmative defenses,
Affirmative Defense 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment)
and Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset), which read:
8.10 Plaintiff seeks unjust enrichment.
8.12 GEO has not been unjustly enriched by any work performed
by detainees, because GEO has provided services to detainees,
and any award against GEO for unjust enrichment must be
offset by costs incurred for caring for plaintiffs during
their time in detention.
Dkt. 34 at 7.
acknowledges that Affirmative Defense 8.10 (Plaintiff's
unjust enrichment), overlaps with the Unjust Enrichment
counterclaim. Dkt. 40 at 24, ln. 16-18. The defense should be
stricken as redundant.
Defense 8.12 (offset) includes general denial language in the
first clause (“GEO has not been unjustly
enriched”), which should be stricken because it is not
helpful and serves only to detract from the core affirmative
defense raised, offset. The second clause of Affirmative
Defense 8.12 (“any award . . . must be offset) is
properly raised as an affirmative defense.
for consideration is whether to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment
counterclaim for failure to state a claim, and whether to
strike the second clause of Affirmative Defense 8.12
enrichment of a person occurs when he has and retains money
or benefits which in justice and equity belong to
another.” Bailie Commc'ns, Ltd. v. Trend Bus.
Sys., Inc., 61 Wn.App. 151, 159 (1991). A claim for
unjust enrichment has three elements: (1) the defendant [or
counter-defendant] receives a benefit, (2) the received
benefit is at the plaintiff's [or
counter-plaintiff's] expense, and (3) the circumstances
make it unjust for the defendant [or counter-defendant] to
retain the benefit without payment. Young v. Young,
164 Wn. 2d 477, 484-85 (2008).
Court considered the pleadings with care, but Defendant's
theory for the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim is unclear.
Although at the pleadings stage Defendant need not reveal the
entirety of its counterclaim theory, the pleadings fail to
allege-and Defendant's Response (Dkt. 40 at 24, 25) fails
to point to-sufficient alleged facts that could any way
provide notice of a plausible theory for the first two
elements. The counterclaim lacks any facts that could account
for how Plaintiff, the State of Washington, received a
benefit, and how Plaintiff caused Defendant to incur the
expense of conferring that benefit. Plaintiff's motion to
dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim should be granted
and the counterclaim dismissed without prejudice.
challenge to Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) appears
tentative, and probably is not properly raised. Although
Plaintiff addressed the merits of offset in its motion, it
appears to have done so for the Unjust Enrichment
counterclaim as alleged under an offset theory. See
Dkt. 37 at 7, ln. 18-22 (citing to counterclaim, not
¶8.12); id. at 14, ln. 10; Dkt. 42 at 16, ln.
18. But see Dkt. 42 at 16, ln. 2-6. The Reply
attempts to bootstrap Affirmative Defense 8.12 by
incorporating the defense into substantive argument for the
Unjust Enrichment counterclaim. See id.
Plaintiff properly raised Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset)
explicitly as part of the motion to dismiss the Unjust
Enrichment counterclaim, Plaintiff's substantive offset
arguments should not bar the defense at this stage of the
proceedings. Plaintiff argues: 1) there is nothing to
“offset, ” because neither Washington nor its
residents have received a benefit from Defendant from its
operation of the Northwest Detention Center and the Voluntary
Work Program; (2) equity precludes offset, because Defendant
has benefitted from its illegal conduct; and (3) offset would
result in double recovery to Defendant, and to the extent an
offset could be available, “any obligation owed to GEO
for detention services rests squarely with [ICE]-not
Washington or its residents[.]”. Dkt. 37 at 9-11; Dkt.
42 at 5-7. Addressing these arguments is premature.
Plaintiff's motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.12
(offset) should be denied without prejudice.
summary, Plaintiffs motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.10
(Plaintiffs unjust enrichment) should be granted and the
defense stricken as redundant.
motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) should be
granted in part and the defense stricken as redundant for the
first clause (“GEO has not been unjustly enriched . . .
services to detainees”) only. The motion should denied
without prejudice for the second clause (“any award . .
.. must be offset . . .”).
motion to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim should
be granted and the claim dismissed without prejudice.
also seeks leave to amend its counterclaim. Dkt. 38 at 10.
Defendant may move for leave to amend pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 if it chooses.
Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (Dkt. 34 at