United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
JENNY JOHNSON, individually and on behalf of a class of persons similarly situated, and on behalf of the Providence Health & Service 403b Value Plan, Plaintiff,
PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
strike affirmative defenses (Dkt. No. 36). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS
in part and DENIES in part the motion for the reasons
Jenny Johnson (“Johnson”) brings this putative
class action against Providence Health & Services, the
Providence Health & Human Resources Committee, and other
Providence employees currently unknown (collectively
“Providence”) for alleged breach of fiduciary
duties pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et
seq. (“ERISA”). (Dkt. No. 1 at 1.) The Court
provided a detailed factual background of this case in a
prior order that it will not repeat. (See Dkt. No.
21 at 1-3.) On March 22, 2018, the Court granted in part and
denied in part Providence's motion to dismiss the
complaint. (Id. at 17.) Providence subsequently
filed an answer, which asserts 21 affirmative defenses.
(See Dkt. No. 26 at 29-33.) Johnson filed this
motion asking the Court to strike the following affirmative
defenses: (1) lack of standing; (2) bad faith; (3) the safe
harbor provision in ERISA § 404(c); failure to satisfy
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23; and (5) a reservation of
rights to assert additional defenses. (Dkt. No. 36 at 7-8.)
Providence asks the Court to deny the motion because its
assertion of the aforementioned defenses is proper. (Dkt. No.
37 at 4-5.)
Legal Standard for Motion to Strike
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a district court
“may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or
any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous
matter.” “[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to
strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that
must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with
those issues prior to trial . . . .” Sidney-
Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir.
1983). To determine whether a defense is
“insufficient” under Rule 12(f), the Court asks
whether it gives the plaintiff fair notice of the defense.
Simmons v. Navajo County, 609 F.3d 1011, 1023 (9th
Cir. 2010) (citing Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank,
607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979)).
Lack of Standing.
first affirmative defense states: “Plaintiff lacks
constitutional and statutory standing to bring the claims
alleged.” (Dkt. No. 26 at 29.) Johnson argues that
standing is not an affirmative defense, but a threshold
matter that the Court has already addressed as part of
Providence's motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 36 at 9-10.)
plaintiff must establish that she has standing to bring suit
in federal court. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife,
504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992) (“The party invoking federal
court jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing
[standing].”). Several courts in the Ninth Circuit have
recognized that because standing is inherently part of a
plaintiff's burden of proof, an alleged lack of standing
cannot be pled as an affirmative defense. See, e.g.,
Hernandez v. Cty. of Monterey, 306 F.R.D. 279, 286
(N.D. Cal. 2015); Vogel v. Huntington Oaks Delaware
Partners, LLC, 291 F.R.D. 438, 442 (C.D. Cal. 2013). The
Court agrees that a lack of standing is not an affirmative
defense to a plaintiff's claims. Moreover, the Court has
already ruled that Johnson met her threshold burden to
establish standing. (See Dkt. No. 21 at 7.)
those reasons, the Court STRIKES Providence's first
affirmative defense without leave to amend. However, the
Court notes that the issue of standing, like subject matter
jurisdiction, can be raised at any time, whether by the
parties or by the Court. See Ctr. For Biological
Diversity v. Kempthorne, 588 F.3d 701, 707 (9th Cir.
seventh affirmative defense states:
The claims alleged in the Complaint were brought in bad faith
and on the basis of insufficient factual investigation by
Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel, resulting in an
unreasonable and vexatious proceeding. Under ERISA §
502(g)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g), 28 U.S.C. § 1972,
Defendant's costs and attorney's fees should ...