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Providence Town Center LP v. Raymours Furniture Company

November 13, 2009

PROVIDENCE TOWN CENTER LP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAYMOURS FURNITURE COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO STRIKE

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Providence Town Center LP ("Providence") and Defendant Raymours Furniture Co. ("Raymours") entered into a lease agreement ("Lease") respecting commercial property. Providence commenced this action, alleging, inter alia, that Raymours breached the Lease. Presently before the Court is Raymours's Motion to Strike Paragraphs 19 and 49 of Providence's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) ("Rule 12(f)") (Docket No. 3).*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be denied without prejudice.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The parties' dispute concerns a lease agreement entered into on November 14, 2008, for a term of twenty years for the rental of commercial space in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 1, Ex. A-2.) Under the terms of the Lease, Raymours was to construct the building and pay for the costs of construction, and Providence, as the landlord, was required to obtain the township's approval of the proposed building, façade, and signage. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, Docket No. 1, Ex. A-1.) On March 17, 2009, Providence alleges that Raymours demanded that Providence demonstrate that it had obtained the necessary permits and approval. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Two days later, Providence informed Raymours that Providence had obtained a permit for the building's accompanying signage. (Compl. ¶ 11.)

On March 24, 2009, Raymours's counsel sent Providence a letter stating that Raymours intended to terminate the Lease unless Providence obtained "'final and unappealable approval' of the [relevant permits] as required by the Lease." (Compl. ¶ 14; Def.'s Mot. to Strike 2.) On March 31, 2009, Providence responded to "address Tenant's alleged concern" by indicating that Providence had obtained the building plan and façade permits and attaching such permits. (Compl. ¶ 18.) On April 1, 2009, the parties' representatives "met in person and by phone" "to discuss the dispute between plaintiff and Raymours and possible settlement thereof." (Def.'s Mot. to Strike 3; see also Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Strike 8 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.], Docket No. 5.) Two days later, Providence "declared [Raymours] in default of the Lease." (Compl. ¶ 20.)

Providence commenced this action in the Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, alleging that Raymours breached the Lease. (Docket No. 1, Ex. A-1.) On August 27, 2009, Raymours removed the case to this Court (Docket No. 1), and filed the pending Motion to Strike Paragraphs 19 and 49 of the Complaint.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

"The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). "The purpose of a motion to strike is to clean up the pleadings, streamline litigation, and avoid unnecessary forays into immaterial matters." McInerney v. Moyer Lumber & Hardware, 244 F. Supp. 2d 393, 402 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (Rufe, J.). A motion to strike is "not favored and usually will be denied unless the allegations have no possible relation to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of the parties." Id.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. The Parties' Contentions

Raymours seeks to strike paragraphs 19 and 49 of the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(f). Raymours contends that these paragraphs refer to discussions that took place after both parties disputed the terms and performance of the Lease, were "undertaken solely in an effort to resolve amicably the [parties'] dispute," and are sought to be introduced "in order to establish both the validity of [Providence's] claims and the invalidity of the positions asserted by Raymours." (Def.'s Mot. to Strike 4.) Raymours thereby contends that paragraphs 19 and 49 "improperly refer[] to . . . statements made by Raymours['s] representative[s] . . . during the course of privileged settlement discussions." (Def.'s Mot. to Strike 4.) Raymours then avers that the Court has previously determined that Rule 408 is a basis for striking immaterial allegations in a complaint, and thus, that paragraphs 19 and 49 should be stricken from Providence's Complaint. (Def.'s Mot. to Strike 3-5.)

Providence responds that the statements in question were "made during a discussion between the parties of the issues giving rise to this dispute, the statement was not made during settlement negotiations." (Pl.'s Resp. 8.) In particular, Providence contends that when the statements were made, it had not yet "issued a default notice," and neither party had made a settlement offer or indicated that it was "considering litigation." (Pl.'s Resp. 8.) Providence avers, in the alternative, that even if the paragraphs relate to settlement negotiations, "there is no possibility that the statement would not be admissible for other purposes" than to prove liability, "as permitted by Rule 408." (Pl.'s Resp. 9-10.) Providence, however, did not specify what permissible purpose applies to the statements in question. Providence concludes that because "courts genreally deny Rule 12(f) motions that allege violation of Rule 408" (Pl.'s Resp. 6), the Motion should be denied.

Raymours replies that Providence has conceded that the discussions referred to in the challenged paragraphs of the Complaint occurred after Raymours terminated the Lease, and thus, after the parties' dispute had arisen, thereby triggering Rule 408. (Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Resp. 2-3, Docket No. 6.) Raymours then avers that although Rule 408 does not bar the admission of evidence respecting intent or motive even where the evidence arises in the context of settlement, Providence brings a "'plain vanilla' breach of contract claim," rendering evidence of Raymours's alleged bad faith "utterly immaterial and irrelevant." (Def.'s Reply 4-5.) Raymours ...


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