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Ball v. Life Insurance Company of North America

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

December 28, 2017

SHELLY BALL, Plaintiff,
v.
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Shelly Ball has filed a Motion to Compel Defendant to File an Amended Answer. See Dkt. No. 14 (the “Motion to Compel”). United States District Judge Sam A. Lindsay has referred the Motion to Compel to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for a hearing, if necessary, and for determination under 28 U.S.C. § 636. See Dkt. No. 17.

         Defendant Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) filed a response, see Dkt. No. 18, and Ball filed a reply, see Dkt. No. 20.

         For the reasons and to the extent explained below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff Shelly Ball's Motion to Compel Defendant to File an Amended Answer [Dkt. No. 14].

         Background

         The Motion to Compel explains that Ball's “Original Complaint (‘Complaint') [ECF Doc. 1] details Ball's claims against Life Insurance Company of North America [hereinafter ‘LINA'] arising from LINA's denial of Ball's claim for long-term disability (‘LTD') benefits” and asserts that,

[i]n Defendant's Amended Answer (‘Answer') [ECF Doc. 12], LINA fails to satisfy well-know pleading standards in two areas. Both areas were recently addressed by [United States District] Judge [Sidney A.] Fitzwater. As summarized by Ball:
LINA repeatedly pleaded that a document “speaks for itself” after Ball warned LINA not to do so and provided LINA with case authority that: “This type of pleading is insufficient.” Bruce v. Anthem Ins. Cos., [No. 3:15-cv-353-D, ] 2015 WL 1860002, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 23, 2015) (compelling more specific answer). LINA pleaded affirmative defenses in section B.1 and B.2 without any facts, despite the requirement that it provide “enough factual particularity to give the plaintiff fair notice of the nature of the affirmative defense and avoid unfair surprise.” Bruce, 2015 WL 1860002, at *3 (compelling more specific answer as to four affirmative defenses).

(Joint Status Report [ECF Doc. 13] at 2-3, § 3.a.)

Dkt. No. 14 at 1.

         Ball asks the Court to “order LINA to file an amended answer to address, in compliance with [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 8(b)(1)(B), the allegations in paragraphs 297-298 and 302-304 of the Complaint, without basing its responses on any assertion that a document ‘speaks for itself, ' and that the Court order that the clause ‘among other things' is stricken from paragraphs B.1 and B.2 on page 36 of Defendant's Amended Answer, with an opportunity to re-plead, in compliance with [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 8(b)(1)(A) and [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 8(c), any such affirmative defense with enough specificity or factual particularity to give the Ball fair notice of the defense.” Id. at 4-5.

         LINA responds that Ball's “Original Complaint, filed on September 7, 2017, is 60 pages long and contains 358 separate allegations to which LINA responded” and that “[m]any of the allegations were argumentative and/or accusatory allegations that serve no apparent function, and many simply quoted documents or quoted language from cases.” Dkt. No. 18 at 1 (footnote omitted). LINA explains that, “[n]onetheless, [it] responded to each and every allegation in its Original Answer filed on October 16, 2017” but that, “[t]hereafter, [Ball's] counsel complained that LINA's answer was insufficient and requested that LINA amend its answer.” Id.

         According to LINA, although it “believes its Original Answer was sufficient, in an attempt to avoid a needless dispute over the pleadings, LINA filed its Amended Answer on November 6, 2017, revising paragraphs 10, 16, 42, 100-103, 105, 136, 137, 188, 215, and 216 and adding additional factual allegations to Affirmative Defenses B.1 and B.2, ” but, “[d]espite this, Plaintiff continues to demand that LINA amend its pleadings and has now filed her Motion [to Compel] simply to harass LINA.” Id. at 1-2.

         In reply, Ball contends that LINA's response “continues LINA's history of procedural violations that have the effect of ‘sandbagging' Ball” - “[w]here LINA's actions previously contravened the ERISA standards, they now contravene the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the case law construing them.” Dkt. No. 20 at 2. Ball asserts that she “provided the applicable legal authorities to LINA before filing her” Motion to Compel and that “LINA failed to heed them” and “has created disputes where, because of settled law, there should be none” as to “(1) the five simple sentences in the Complaint to which LINA has evasively answered that Caringi's report ‘speaks for itself'” and “(2) the two affirmative defenses pleaded by LINA with a catch-all ‘among other things' clause.” Id.

         Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b) governs a defendant's admissions and denials of allegations in a complaint filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) and provides:

(1) In General. In responding to a pleading, a party must:
(A) state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it; and
(B) admit or deny the allegations asserted against it by an opposing party.
(2) Denials - Responding to the Substance. A denial must fairly respond to the substance of the allegation.
(3) General and Specific Denials. A party that intends in good faith to deny all the allegations of a pleading - including the jurisdictional grounds - may do so by a general denial. A party that does not intend to deny all the allegations must either specifically deny designated allegations or generally deny all except those specifically admitted.
(4) Denying Part of an Allegation. A party that intends in good faith to deny only part of an allegation must admit the part ...

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