Martinez et al v. United States of America

Filing 24

ORDER denying 21 Motion for More Definite Statement. Signed by Magistrate Judge Leslie A Bowman on 11/5/14. (See attached PDF for complete information.) (KAH)

Download PDF
1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Armando Nieves Martinez; et al., 10 Plaintiffs, 11 vs. 12 13 14 United States of America, Defendant. 15 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. CIV 13-955-TUC-CKJ (LAB) ORDER 16 Pending before the court is the government’s motion for a more definite statement, 17 filed on September 17, 2014. (Doc. 21). 18 The plaintiff, Armando Nieves Martinez, claims he was browbeaten into falsely 19 confessing to drug smuggling by agents of the Department of Customs and Border 20 Protection. The government moves that this court dismiss the complaint and instruct the 21 plaintiffs to file a more definite statement of their claims pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(e). 22 The case has been referred to Magistrate Judge Bowman for pretrial proceedings 23 pursuant to the Local Rules of Practice. LRCiv 72.2. 24 The court finds the complaint is sufficient and denies the motion. 25 26 Factual and Procedural Background 27 28 1 On August 18, 2011, the plaintiff, Armando Nieves Martinez, his wife, and two 2 children drove north from their home in Caborca, Sonora into Arizona intending to do some 3 shopping. (Doc. 20) Their trip was uneventful until they reached the U.S. Border Patrol 4 checkpoint north of Ajo, Arizona. Id. 5 At the checkpoint, agents became suspicious. (Doc. 20) The vehicle was searched, 6 and the family members were placed in separate rooms. Id. The family was told that liquid 7 methamphetamine was found in the windshield wiper fluid. Id. Mr. and Mrs. Martinez were 8 told that if one of them accepted responsibility, the remaining family members would be 9 released. Id. 10 After about three hours of questioning, Mr. Martinez agreed to accept responsibility 11 for the drugs in exchange for having his family released from custody. (Doc. 20) At the 12 agents’ insistence, Mr. Martinez concocted a story in which his mechanic put the drugs in 13 his car, and he was instructed to deliver them to a mall in Chandler, Arizona. Id. Martinez 14 told the officers the story was false, but the agents did not incorporate that statement into his 15 declaration. Id. 16 On September 24, 2011, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case because 17 the government’s forensic laboratory found no drugs in the samples provided by the agents. 18 (Doc. 20) 19 Martinez and his family filed a complaint in this court alleging subject matter 20 jurisdiction pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. (Doc. 1) The government filed a 21 motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. 22 (Doc. 11) The court granted the motion in part and dismissed the complaint with leave to 23 amend. (Docs. 16, 19) The court found no jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims for 24 defamation, misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. Id. 25 On August 19, 2014, Martinez and his family filed an amended complaint alleging 26 assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, gross negligence, and false 27 imprisonment. (Doc. 20) 28 -2- 1 2 On September 17, 2014, the government filed the pending motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). (Doc. 21). 3 4 Discussion 5 Under Rule 12(e), “[a] party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to 6 which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party 7 cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. “However, a motion for a more 8 definite statement must be considered in light of the liberal pleading standards of Rule 8(a).” 9 Hubbs v. County of San Bernardino, CA, 538 F.Supp.2d 1254, 1262 (C.D.Cal. 2008). 10 “Thus, a motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) should be granted only where 11 the complaint is so indefinite that the defendants cannot ascertain the nature of the claims 12 being asserted and literally cannot frame a responsive pleading.” Id. (punctuation modified). 13 “Rule 12(e) motions are disfavored and rarely granted.” Griffin v. Cedar Fair, L.P., 14 817 F.Supp.2d 1152, 1156 (N.D.Cal. 2011). “The rule is aimed at unintelligibility rather 15 than lack of detail and is only appropriate when the defendants cannot understand the 16 substance of the claim asserted.” Id. 17 In its motion, the government argues the complaint lacks certain specifics. (Doc. 21) 18 For example, while the complaint claims the agents were negligent, it does not specify “who 19 was negligent, what duties they owed Mr. Nieves-Martinez and how they failed to discharge 20 such duties . . . .” (Doc. 21, p. 3) 21 The government further argues it is unable to match particular allegations to particular 22 claims. (Doc. 21) For example, the government argues it is unable to determine if a 23 particular action constitutes negligence, gross negligence, or intentional infliction of 24 emotional distress. Id. Finally, the government argues the complaint fails to match each 25 particular action by the agents to a particular plaintiff. Id. 26 These are legitimate concerns, but they will be resolved later during the discovery 27 process. At this stage, the only issue is whether the government is able to understand the 28 nature of the claims. And, the court concludes it is able to do so. See, e.g., Davis v. Amtrak, -3- 1 2013 WL 3187385, 2 (N.D.Cal. 2013) (“A 12(e) motion should also be denied if the detail 2 sought is obtainable through discovery.”). Accordingly, 3 4 5 6 IT IS ORDERED that the government’s motion for a more definite statement, filed on September 17, 2014, is DENIED. (Doc. 21). DATED this 5th day of November, 2014. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -4-

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?