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Styer v. Frito-Lay, Inc.

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 6, 2015

FRANKLIN STYER, Plaintiff,
v.
FRITO-LAY, INC., Defendant.

Judge Yvette Kane

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

I. Statement of Facts and of The Case

The plaintiff, Franklin Styer, instituted this workplace discrimination action on April 2, 2013, by filing a complaint, through counsel, alleging, inter alia, that his former employer Frito-Lay, Inc. (“Frito Lay”), violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by creating and maintaining a hostile work environment, engaged in retaliatory harassment of the plaintiff and discriminated against the plaintiff based on race, all of which Styer claims resulted in his involuntary resignation.

At the close of what has been an occasionally contentious period of discovery, Frito-Lay moved for summary judgement, arguing that there was no dispute as to any material issue of fact, and contending that it was entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law. (Doc. 44.) This pleading then set in motion a series of events which culminated in the filing of a motion to strike (Doc. 64), which we address and resolve today.

Thus, Styer responded to this summary judgment motion by tendering an affidavit which he had signed and by submitting two documents styled as affidavits and bearing the electronic signature of Michael Hester-Bey and Terry Hightower. (Doc. 57.) Taken together, these documents controverted Frito-Lay’s statement of fact in support of its summary judgment motion and described a racially-charged employment atmosphere at the Frito-Lay York County facility. (Id.)

Frito-Lay replied to this response by attacking Styer’s affidavit as a sham affidavit, and by seeking to strike the affidavits of Mr. Hester-Bey and Mr. Hightower. (Doc. 63.) In connection with this reply brief, Frito-Lay, in turn, submitted an affidavit from Mr. Hightower revising some statements which Hightower purportedly made in his initial declaration filed by the plaintiff, along with an affidavit from a private investigator summarizing an interview with Mr. Hester-Bey. In that interview, Mr. Hester-Bey allegedly stated that his filed declaration was “85 to 90 percent accurate”, but is alleged to have stated that some factual assertions may be exaggerated. (Id.)

These contentions, advanced by Frito-Lay in its summary judgement reply brief, have now inspired a rejoinder by the plaintiff in the form of a motion to strike both the private investigator affidavit, and various arguments made by the defendant in that reply brief. (Doc. 64.) This motion is fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 65 and 66.), and is, therefore, ripe for resolution.

For the reasons set forth below, the motion to strike will be denied.

II.Discussion

Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to strike pleadings and provides, in part, that:

(f) Motion to Strike. The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.

F. R. Civ. P., Rule 12(f).

While rulings on motions to strike rest in the sound discretion of the court, Von Bulow v. Von Bulow, 657 F.Supp. 1134, 1146 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), that discretion is guided by certain basic principles. Because striking a pleading is viewed as a drastic remedy, such motions are “generally disfavored.” Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1057 (C.A.La., 1982). As one court has aptly observed: “striking a party's pleadings is an extreme measure, and, as a result, . . . ‘[m]otions to strike under Fed .R.Civ.P. 12(f) are viewed with disfavor and are infrequently granted.’ Lunsford v. United States, 570 F.2d 221, 229 (8th Cir.1977) (citing 5 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure. Civil § 1380 at 783 (1969)). See also, Resolution Trust Corp. v. Gibson, 829 F.Supp. 1103, 1106 (W.D.Mo.1993); 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 12.37[1] (3d ed. 2000).” Stanbury Law Firm v. I.R.S., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000). In practice, ...


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