Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. Providence Health & Services

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 18, 2018

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,
v.
PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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 explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard for Motion to Strike

         Under 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)).

         1. Lack of Standing.

         Providence's 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.)

         A 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.)

         For 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. 2009).

         2. Bad Faith.

         Providence's 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.