Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Company v. Bolin
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER, IT IS ORDERED 6 FIRST MOTION for More Definite Statement by Johnny E. Bolin be OVERRULED; IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant respond to the Complaint within TWENTY (20) DAYS from entry of this order.. Signed by Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr on 3/8/18.(SMT)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
Civil Action No. 17-135-HRW
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY & CASUAL TY
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JOHNNY E. BOLIN,
This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Johnny E. Bolin's Motion for a More
Definite Statement [Docket No. 6). Plaintiff has responded to the motion [Docket No. 7). For
the reasons set forth herein, the Court will overrule the motion.
On November 26, 2016, certain property at 2224 Jones Creek Road in West Liberty,
Kentucky was destroyed by fire [Complaint, Docket No. 1, ~ 3).
Plaintiff Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Metropolitan")
issued a Homeowners Insurance Policy, Policy No. 4880443700, with a renewal, issued to
Named Insured Johnny Bolin, with an effective policy term of December 9, 2015 to December 9,
Following the fire, Bolin made a claim pursuant to the policy. Id.
Subsequently, on December 22, 2017. Metropolitan filed this civil action. In its
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, Metropolitan alleged that there may be no coverage, or
only limited coverage, under the Policy to the extent that Bolin may have (1) not had an insurable
interest in the property, (2) breached the Policy, (3) failed to cooperate in the investigation of the
claim, and/or (4) concealed or misrepresented material facts.
In response to the Complaint, Bolin filed a motion, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(e),
seeking a more definite statement of the claims alleged.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides:
A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a
responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the
party cannot reasonably prepare a response. The motion must be made before
filing a responsive pleading and must point out the defects complained of and
the details desired.
Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12( e).
Rule 12(e) must be read in conjunction with Rule 8 which sets forth the general rules of
pleading in federal civil actions. Rule 8(a)(2) requires only notice pleading. Leatherman v.
Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). A
complaint need only provide "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to satisfy the pleading requirements a claimant
need only give the defendant "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests." Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (internal
In view of the great liberality of Rule 8, permitting notice pleading, Rule 12(e) should be
called upon only to correct abject unintelligibility in a pleading, not merely a claimed lack of detail.
Accordingly, a "motion for more definite statement is designed to strike at unintelligibility rather
than simple want of detail. ... [It] must be denied where the subject complaint is not so vague or
ambiguous as to make it unreasonable to use pretrial devices to fill any possible gaps in detail."
Schwable v. Coates, 2005 WL 2002360, at* 1 (N.D.Ohio 2005), see also SKY Technology Partners,
LLC v. Midwest Research Institute, 125 F.Supp.2d 286, 298 (S.D.Ohio 2000) (A "motion for more
definite statement is granted only when the pleading is so vague that it is unreasonable to expect that
a responsive pleading may or can be framed").
Federal courts generally disfavor motions for more definite statements and motions for the same
are addressed to the discretion of the court. In view of the notice pleading standards of Rule 8(a)(2)
and the opportunity for extensive pretrial discovery, courts rarely grant such motions. See, e.g.,
Communities for Equity v. Michigan High School Athletic Ass'n, 26 F.Supp.2d 1001, 1009 n. 9
(W .D .Mich.1998); Static Control Components, Inc. v. Lexmark Intern., Inc., 2005 WL 2122641, * 1
(E.D.Ky.2005); Schwable, 2005 WL 2002360 at * 1 (N.D.Ohio 2005).
As noted by Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court, the simplified notice
pleading standard of Rule 8(a) relies on "liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions"
ratherthan on technical forms of pleading. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema NA., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002).
In seeking a "more definite statement," Defendant points to the pertinent portions of the
"Pursuant to the terms, provisions, conditions, exclusions and endorsements of the
Homeowners Insurance Policy ... there may be no coverage and/or limited
coverage for some or all of the claims of Defendant herein .. .insofar as Defendant
may not have been the owner of the property claimed at issue, may not have had
an insurable interest in said property, and/or was not the proper party in interest to
pursue said claims; insofar as Defendant may have breached the Policy and/or
failed to comply with conditions precedent to pursuing a claim or suit under said
Homeowners Policy; insofar as Defendant may not have fully complied with all
policy terms, including but not limited to the Policy Conditions ... fully cooperated
in the investigation ... , failed to prepare an appropriate inventory of the claimed
loss, failed to timely submit a signed sworn proof of loss pursuant to the policy
terms; insofar as Defendant may have concealed or misrepresented any material
fact or circumstance or made any material false statement or engaged in
fraudulent conduct affecting any matter relating to this insurance or any loss for
which overage is sought, whether before or after that loss."
Docket No. 1, iii! 12-14 (emphasis added).
Defendant contends that the Complaint fails to allege any wrongdoing or misconduct on
his part. It appears that Defendant misconstrues the nature of a Complaint for Declaratory
Judgment. The Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §2201, gives federal courts the
authority to declare the respective rights and obligations of the parties without granting coercive
relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Therefore, the ''j'accuse!" moment Defendant seeks has no place in
this civil action where Metropolitan is only seeking to determine its obligations under the policy
issued to Bolin.
In its Complaint, Metropolitan alleges that Bolin may not have had an insurable interest
in the subject property, may have failed to cooperate in the investigation of the claim, and/or may
have concealed or misrepresented facts. Those allegations, particularly when taken in
conjunction with the provisions of the Policy quoted in the Complaint, provide ample notice as to
the claims in this action. Therefore, Bolin has sufficient notice of the claims and allegations to
file an Answer in response to the Complaint.
The undersigned shares Defendant's desire for more details. However, the tools of
discovery can be invoked to further flesh out the allegations of the Complaint. In light of the
opportunity for extensive pretrial discovery, a motion for a more definite statement should not be
used a substitute for discovery. See generally, Innovative Digital Equipment, Inc. v. Quantum
Tech. Inc., 597 F. Supp. 983, 989 (N.D. Ohio, 1984).
Metropolitan's Complaint for Declaratory Judgment properly contains a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that it is entitled to relief. However, the Complaint is not so
vague or ambiguous that Bolin cannot reasonably prepare a response.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED Defendant Johnny E. Bolin's Motion for a
More Definite Statement [Docket No. 6] be OVERRULED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant respond to the Complaint within
TWENTY (20) DAYS of entry of this Order.
day of March, 2018.
Henry R. Wilhoit. Jr.
United States District Judge
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