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Steffy v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston

April 15, 2010

DAVID M. STEFFY, BY HIS ATTORNEY IN FACT, LILA T. STEFFY, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LIBERTY LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF BOSTON, NATIONAL CITY CORPORATION WELFARE BENEFITS PLAN, AND NATIONAL CITY CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER OF THE COURT

Synopsis

Plaintiffs David M. Steffy and Lila T. Steffy have moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) to strike the Amended Answer and Counterclaims filed by Defendants Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, National City Corporation Welfare Benefits Plan and National City Corporation [Docket No. 36]. Defendants have moved in the alternative for leave to file the Amended Answer and Counterclaims. For the reasons set forth below, I grant Defendants' motion and I grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs' motion to strike.

I. Applicable Standards

Motions to strike pleadings are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), which states that "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) (West 2010). "A decision to grant or deny a motion to strike a pleading is vested in the trial judge's sound discretion." Tauro v. Baer, 2009 WL 2410952, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 4, 2009). Striking a pleading is "a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for the purposes of justice." Wilson v. King, 2010 WL 678102, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 24, 2010).

II. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff David Steffy ("Steffy") was employed by National City Corporation ("National City") as a vice president from May of 1996 to June 1, 2007. (First Amended Complaint, [Docket No. 10], at ¶ 7.) Beginning in 2006, National City noticed that Steffy was losing his focus, his memory and having cognitive problems. (Id. at ¶ 9.) He was relieved of some of his accounts, resulting in a decline in his sales volume. (Id.) Steffy sought and obtained a diagnosis, underwent medical treatment and notified his superiors of this treatment. (Id. at ¶¶10-13.) However, his symptoms did not improve. (Id. at ¶14.)

On June 1, 2007, Steffy's employment with National City was terminated. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In connection with his termination, Steffy entered into an agreement with National City, pursuant to which National City paid him severance in the amount of $7,500 per month for a period of three months, through August 31, 2007. (Id. at ¶16.) This amount was less than his regular monthly earnings of approximately $12,500 per month. (Id.) The agreement also contained a release and waiver of certain rights Steffy may have had against National City. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that the agreement was not knowingly and voluntarily executed, in that: National City forced him to sign the release and waiver, even though it was on notice of his loss of memory, loss of focus, and cognitive problems; he did not know his rights, particularly given his cognitive problems; his rights were not clearly spelled out in the agreement; he was not encouraged to seek benefit of counsel; he had no opportunity to negotiate the terms of the release; the consideration given in exchange for the waiver was far less than the benefits to which he was entitled by law; National City did not explain to Steffy his benefits, despite representing that it would do so; and Steffy was mentally impaired at the time he executed the release. (Id.) Plaintiffs assert claims for denial of benefits, breach of fiduciary duty, equitable estoppel, and violations of the FMLA and ERISA § 510, and seeks short term disability and long term disability benefits, as well as any other benefits to which Steffy is entitled.

Defendants served their answer to the First Amended Complaint on October 22, 2009 [Docket No. 22]. The amended case management order required that motions to amend the pleadings be filed by February 19, 2010 [Docket No. 32]. Without seeking leave of court, Defendants served an Amended Answer on February 16, 2010 [Docket No. 36].

The Amended Answer sets forth three counterclaims by Defendant National City against Plaintiffs for conversion, unjust enrichment and breach of contract. Basically, National City allleges that Plaintiffs' retention of the severance payments is inequitable and in breach of the parties' severance agreement in light of Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants for benefits and damages.

IV. Plaintiffs' Motion To Strike Defendants' Amended Answer

A. Timeliness

Federal Rule Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(A) provides that a party may serve an amended pleading once as a matter of course within twenty-one days after serving the initial pleading. Otherwise, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed. R.Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The amended case management order herein provided that "the time for motions to amend the pleadings. . .is extended to February 19, 2010." Because Defendants filed their Amended Answer more than twenty-one days after their initial Answer, and also failed to seek the ...


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