United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendants Kien Chau and
Hansan Carpet & Blind's (“Defendants”)
motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. 26). The Court has
considered the pleadings filed in support of and in
opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and
hereby denies the motion for the reasons stated herein.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
January 2013, the HELENA STAR sank and discharged oil into
the navigable waters of the United States. Dkt. 1, ¶ 77.
The Government alleges that Defendants and others in relation
to Defendants owned and/or maintained control over the HELENA
STAR. Id. ¶¶ 6-76. The Government alleges
that Defendants and others failed to respond to the threat of
oil discharge forcing the Government to respond. Id.
¶¶ 80-83. The Government incurred over $600, 000 in
costs for the removal of the HELENA STAR and cleanup of the
oil discharge. Id. ¶ 86.
11, 2017, the Government filed a complaint against Defendants
and others asserting three claims for violations of the Oil
Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”), 33 U.S.C. §
2701, et seq., a claim for a violation of the
Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (“FDCPA”),
28 U.S.C. § 3001, et seq., and a claim for
priority of its claims. Id.
April 3, 2018, Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings. Dkt. 26. On April 23, 2018, the Government
responded. Dkt. 29. On April 27, 2018, Defendants replied.
the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay
trial - a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The pleadings are
closed for purposes of Rule 12(c) once a complaint and answer
have been filed. Doe v. United States, 419 F.3d 1058
(9th Cir. 2005). “Analysis under Rule 12(c) is
‘substantially identical' to analysis under Rule
12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine
whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true,
entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.” Pit River
Tribe v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 793 F.3d 1147, 1155 (9th
Cir. 2015) (quoting Chavez v. United States, 683
F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012)).
to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure may be based on either the lack of a
cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under such a 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, 1301 (9th Cir. 1983). To survive
a motion to dismiss, the complaint does not require detailed
factual allegations but must provide the grounds for
entitlement to relief and not merely a “formulaic
recitation” of the elements of a cause of action.
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965
(2007). Plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 1974.
Government argues that Defendants' motion is premature.
Dkt. 9 at 3-4. The issue is whether the pleadings are closed
when some defendants have not answered but are in default.
Neither party cites authority directly on point. In the
absence of authority, it would seem that the pleadings are
closed when the time period for filing an answer has passed
and the opposing party has moved for default. Otherwise, the
pleadings would never be closed when at least one party has
defaulted. The Court also agrees with Defendants that, even
if the pleadings are not closed, the Court may address the
merits of the motion because a Rule 12(c) motion is
substantially identical to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Dkt. 30 at
argue that the Court should dismiss the Government's
complaint because it fails to support the claims with
sufficient factual allegations. Dkt. 26. First, Defendants
claim that the Government's allegation that the HELENA
STAR is a “vessel” under the OPA is a formulaic
recitation of the elements of an OPA claim. Id. at
6-10. The Court disagrees. Alleging that the HELENA STAR is a
vessel is sufficient to put Defendants on notice of the claim
against them. Moreover, this issue is more suitable for
resolution on a motion for summary ...