TCF Inventory Finance, Inc. v. SS/T Auto LLC et al
MEMORANDUM Order: This memorandum order is issued sua sponte because of a host of problematic aspects of the responsive pleading filed by defendants Timothy and Carrie Owens (collectively "Owenses"). The Owenses' Answer is stricken in its entirety, with leave granted to file a proper Amended Answer on or before October 14, 2016. This Court orders Owenses to show cause by the same October 14 date, pursuant to Rule 11(c)(3), as to why their conduct in connection with their initial filing has not violated Rule 11(b). Signed by the Honorable Milton I. Shadur on 9/20/2016:Mailed notice(clw, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
TCF INVENTORY FINANCE, INC.,
a Minnesota corporation,
SS/T AUTO LLC, an Arizona limited
liability company, et al.,
Case No. 16 C 8315
Two of the three defendants in this contract action brought by TCF Inventory Finance,
Inc. ("TCF") -- Timothy and Carrie Owens (collectively "Owenses") -- have filed a pro se
Answer to the TCF Complaint. They are of course entitled to do so, but if they exercise that
option they are still obligated to play by the rules. 1 This memorandum order is issued sua sponte
because of a host of problematic aspects of Owenses' responsive pleading.
To begin with, this District Court's rules contain this provision aimed at enabling the
reader to see just what is and what is not at issue by reading a defendant's answer rather than
flipping back and forth between two documents (LR 10.1):
Responsive pleadings shall be made in numbered paragraphs each corresponding
to and stating a concise summary of the paragraph to which it is directed.
Some leeway is of course extended to Owenses as nonlawyers, but the text of the
Answer suggests that they may have been provided with legal input -- and if that is not the case,
the matters dealt with in this memorandum order confirm their total lack of wisdom in acting on
their own instead.
For Owenses' information, compliance with that provision most frequently involves a verbatim
copying of each paragraph of a complaint (rather than paraphrasing its allegations), followed
immediately by defendants' response to the allegations. So when the Amended Answer required
by this memorandum order is filed, compliance with LR 10.1 is necessary.
Next, Answer ¶ 1 contains two fundamental mistakes. Its first sentence reflects a total
misunderstanding of TCF's Complaint ¶ 1, which is an impeccable statement identifying TCF's
corporate citizenship as prescribed by 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1) -- compliance that is essential in an
action whose federal subject matter jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship. As for the
second problem with Answer ¶ 1, the response is flawed by its oxymoronic denial of TCF's
allegations after having asserted the disclaimer permitted by Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 8(b)(5). It
is of course improper for a party to assert (presumably in good faith) that it lacks even enough
information to form a belief as to the truth of an allegation, then proceed to deny it. Because
such a denial is at odds with the pleader's obligations under Rule 11(b), the quoted language is
stricken from Answer ¶ 1.
Next, Answer ¶ 3 reflects Owenses' misunderstanding of the federal concept of the state
or states of citizenship of a limited liability company ("LLC") such as their co-defendant SS/T
Auto LLC ("SS/T") -- a concept that is also an essential component of the diversity-ofcitizenship determination. For jurisdictional purposes SS/T citizenship is not a function of the
state where that LLC has been incorporated, but is rather determined by the states of citizenship
of all of the LLC's members. Because Owenses have denied the allegation that they are the SS/T
members, their Amended Answer must identify all of its members and their respective states of
Owenses' obvious lack of understanding of diversity concepts carries forward into their
Answer ¶ 7. Somebody on the defense side of the "v." sign (Owenses or, if they exercise better
judgment, a lawyer on their behalf) has to go back to the books and include a proper response to
Complaint ¶ 7 in the Amended Answer.
Next, Answer ¶ 8 is also flat-out wrong. If Owenses intend to challenge the propriety of
TCF's bringing this action in this District Court, they must file an appropriate motion with
appropriate legal support so that this Court can address the subject on an informed basis.
Next, Owenses launch into a series of responses that avoid the issue by stating that a
document "speaks for itself." Not so -- see App'x ¶ 3 to State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Riley,
199 F.R.D. 276, 279 (N.D. Ill. 2001). All of those assertions are stricken, and Owenses'
Amended Answer must respond to the Complaint's allegations in those paragraphs in a
This memorandum order could go on at greater length, but it is really not this Court's
function or responsibility to do litigants' work for them. Because potential damages in the range
of $1 million are at stake here, and because Owenses' efforts are patently irresponsible in so
many respects, the Answer is stricken in its entirety, with leave granted to file a proper Amended
Answer on or before October 14, 2016.
Finally, it is an understatement to say that Owenses' best interests would be served by
their retaining counsel to represent them in this big-stakes lawsuit. Moreover, this Court orders
Owenses to show cause by the same October 14 date, pursuant to Rule 11(c)(3), as to why their
conduct in connection with their initial filing has not violated Rule 11(b).
Date: September 20, 2016
Milton I. Shadur
Senior United States District Judge
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