Lanard Toys Limited ("Lanard") filed a patent infringement action against Toys "R" US. Lanard subsequently filed a four-count Amended Complaint and Demand for Trial by Jury, both of which were filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. After the amend complaint was filed, the case was transferred to the Middle District of Florida.
Once the case reached Florida, the district court, on its own motion, found that the complaint was impermissible. "Upon review, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint constitutes an impermissible 'shotgun pleading.' A shotgun complaint 'contains several counts, each one incorporating by reference the allegations of its predecessors, leading to a situation where most of the counts . . . contain irrelevant factual allegations and legal conclusions.' Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C. v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 2002). Consequently, in ruling on the sufficiency of a claim, the Court is faced with the onerous task of sifting out irrelevancies in order to decide for itself which facts are relevant to a particular cause of action asserted. See id. Here, each count in the Amended Complaint incorporates by reference all allegations of the preceding counts."
The district court then explained that in the Eleventh Circuit, shotgun pleadings of this sort are "altogether unacceptable." Cramer v. State of Fla., 117 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Cook v. Randolph County, 573 F.3d 1143, 1151 (11th Cir. 2009) ("We have had much to say about shotgun pleadings, none of which is favorable.") (collecting cases). As the Court in Cramer recognized, "[s]hotgun pleadings, whether filed by plaintiff or defendant, exact an intolerable toll on the trial court's docket, lead to unnecessary and unchanneled discovery, and impose unwarranted expense on the litigants, the court and the court's parajudicial personnel and resources." Cramer, 117 F.3d at 1263. When faced with the burden of deciphering a shotgun pleading, it is the trial court's obligation to strike the pleading on its own initiative, and force the plaintiff to replead to the extent possible under Rule 11, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See id. (admonishing district court for not striking shotgun complaint on its own initiative); see also United States ex rel. Atkins v. McInteer, 470 F.3d 1350, 1354 n.6 (11th Cir. 2006) ("When faced with a shotgun pleading, the trial court, whether or not requested to do so by a party's adversary, ought to require the party to file a repleader.") (citing Byrne v. Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075, 1133 (11th Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds as recognized by Douglas Asphalt Co. v. QORE, Inc., 657 F.3d 1146, 1151 (11th Cir. 2011)).
Accordingly, the district court struck the amended complaint on its own motion.
Lanard Toys Limited v. Toys "R" US, Inc., Case No. 3:15-cv-849-J-34PDB (M.D. Fla. July 9, 2015)
The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. For more information about this case, contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.