Pace v. Williams et al
ORDER DISMISSING CASE without prejudice because the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In the alternative this action is dismissed without prejudice because plaintiff did not comply with the August 31 Order. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 9/22/2015. Copy mailed to Plaintiff. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
NICK WILLIAMS, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION 15-0157-WS-B
This matter comes before the Court sua sponte.
On August 31, 2015, the undersigned entered an Order (doc. 25) denying plaintiff Sherry
Pace’s Motion for Default Judgment against the lone remaining defendant, Johnny Pace. The
August 31 Order explained in detail why the Complaint (doc. 1), in its current formulation, fails
to give adequate notice to Johnny Pace of the claims against him or the grounds upon which each
claim rests. That Order enumerated specific defects that rendered the pleading an improper and
impermissible shotgun pleading under applicable law, such as (i) indiscriminately lumping all
defendants together on all causes of action, with no factual predicate to identify supporting acts
or omissions by each defendant; (ii) failing to allege any facts or explanation to establish how the
Complaint’s myriad claims directed at public-official defendants who are no longer part of the
case might translate into viable claims against Johnny Pace (if indeed that is what plaintiff
intended to do); and (iii) listing many of the 20+ asserted causes of action with no factual
elaboration whatsoever. The resulting tangled mass of claims and defendants in the Complaint
rendered it impossible to determine which causes of action were asserted against which
defendants based on which factual allegations, all in violation of Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.
After describing these shortcomings, the August 31 Order directed as follows: “If
plaintiff wishes to pursue her claims against Johnny Pace, then she must file an Amended
Complaint that corrects the above-described pleading deficiencies on or before September 15,
2015.” (Doc. 25, at 6.) The Clerk’s Office promptly mailed a copy of that ruling to Sherry Pace
at her address of record. To date, however, she has not responded. She has not filed an amended
complaint that seeks to eradicate the shotgun pleading qualities of her original Complaint. She
has not requested additional time in which to prepare such a filing. She has taken no action
whatsoever. The net result is that this case is six months old, yet the operative pleading falls far
short of the fundamental requirement that defendant Johnny Pace be given fair notice of what
legal claims are being brought against him and upon what factual grounds they rest.
In light of the foregoing circumstances, it appears that Sherry Pace has abandoned her
claims in this lawsuit against the sole remaining defendant, Johnny Pace. Even if plaintiff has
not abandoned those claims, the facts remain that (i) her Complaint does not comport with basic
pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and (ii) she failed to
undertake to correct these deficiencies after being alerted to them and ordered to do so.
Accordingly, this action is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
Fed.R.Civ.P., because the Complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. In the
alternative, this action is dismissed without prejudice for the separate, independent reason that
Sherry Pace did not comply with the August 31 Order and made no attempt to amend her
pleading when its defects were pointed out to her.1 A separate judgment will enter.
DONE and ORDERED this 22nd day of September, 2015.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
In such circumstances, district courts possess inherent power to impose
reasonable sanctions, up to and including dismissal. See, e.g., Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. v.
Florida Mowing and Landscape Service, Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2009) (“A district
court need not tolerate defiance of reasonable orders.”); Eagle Hosp. Physicians, LLC v. SRG
Consulting, Inc., 561 F.3d 1298, 1306 (11th Cir. 2009) (“A court may impose sanctions for
litigation misconduct under its inherent power.”); Martin v. Automobili Lamborghini Exclusive,
Inc., 307 F.3d 1332, 1335 (11th Cir. 2002) (“Courts have the inherent authority to control the
proceedings before them, which includes the authority to impose ‘reasonable and appropriate’
sanctions.”). Under applicable law, of course, it is generally true that “where a more carefully
drafted complaint might state a claim, a plaintiff must be given at least one chance to amend the
complaint before the district court dismisses the action with prejudice.” Bryant v. Dupree, 252
F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Here, however, the August 31 Order
afforded plaintiff precisely such an opportunity to amend her Complaint; however, she elected
not to avail herself of same. Besides, the dismissal of this action is without prejudice, rather than
with prejudice; therefore, this ruling is consistent with the principles enunciated in Bryant.
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