Ninth Circuit: Rule 12(f) cannot be used to strike a claim for damages unavailable as a matter of law

Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a district court “may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.”  In Whittlestone v. Handi-Craft Co. (9th Cir. Aug. 17, 2010), the Ninth Circuit answered a question of first impression regarding the permissible uses of a Motion to Strike.  The district court struck a claim for damages that it found to be unavailable as a matter of law.  The Court wasted no time answering the question and reversing the district court:

It is quite clear that none of the five categories covers the allegations in the pleading sought to be stricken by Handi- Craft. First, the claim for damages is clearly not an insufficient defense; nobody has suggested otherwise. Second, the claim for damages could not be redundant, as it does not appear anywhere else in the complaint. Third, the claim for damages is not immaterial, because whether these damages are recoverable relates directly to the plaintiff’s underlying claim for relief. See Fogerty, 984 F.2d at 1527 (“Immaterial matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being plead.”) (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1382, at 706-07 (1990) (quotation marks omitted)). Fourth, the claim for damages is not impertinent, because whether these damages are recoverable pertains directly to the harm being alleged. Id. (“Impertinent matter consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question.”) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Finally, a claim for damages is not scandalous, and Handi-Craft has not alleged as much.

Slip op., at 12066-67.  The Court concluded that to permit the use attempted by the defendant would create a redundancy within the federal rules.  I say let's have less time-wasting on pleadings squabbles and more time on substance.