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Novak v. New York State Electric & Gas Corp.

October 6, 2006

SHELBY NOVAK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC & GAS CORPORATION; ENERGY EAST CORPORATION; AND CORPORATE CARE MANAGEMENT, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 16, 2006, Plaintiff Shelby Novak ("Plaintiff"), through counsel, filed a complaint against defendants New York State Electric & Gas Corporation ("NYSEG"), Energy East Corporation ("EEC"), and Corporate Care Management, Inc. ("CCM") alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 ("HRL"), and New York common law. The complaint alleges fourteen (14) causes of action, including eleven (11) under the ADA. It spans forty-two (42) pages and consists of one-hundred and sixty-one (161) paragraphs, many containing multiple subparagraphs.

Defendants NYSEG and EEC move to dismiss the complaint for failure to comply with Fed. R. Civ. 8(a), or, in the alternative, for an order requiring Plaintiff to replead her complaint. Plaintiff opposes the motion but requests, in the alternative to dismissal, that she be allowed to replead. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted inasmuch as Plaintiff will be required to replead her action.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). "Such a statement must simply 'give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). "This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Id. at 513.

When a complaint does not comply with the requirement that it be short and plain, "the court has the power, on its own initiative or in response to a motion by the defendant, to strike any portions that are redundant or immaterial, or to dismiss the complaint." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988). Dismissal under Rule 8 is appropriate in "those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Id.

Further, the policy underpinnings for FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)'s requirement that a complaint "contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" are intended, at least in part, to protect the responding party from undue burden. In this regard the Second Circuit wrote:

The statement should be plain because the principal function of pleadings under the Federal Rules is to give the adverse party fair notice of the claim asserted so as to enable him to answer and prepare for trial. See, e.g.,Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 640 (2d Cir.1980); 2A MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE § 8.13, at 8-61 (2d ed. 1987). The statement should be short because "[u]nnecessary prolixity in a pleading places an unjustified burden on the court and the party who must respond to it because they are forced to select the relevant material from a mass of verbiage." 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1281, at 365 (1969).

Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint in this action is the antithesis of a short and plain statement of a claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. It is a document filled with evidentiary assertions spanning a three year period of time and involving allegations of numerous communications with, and actions (or omissions) by, various employees of the defendants. Plaintiff's complaint is not a concise statement of her case, but rather a detailed recitation of the evidence which, she believes, supports her eventual success on the claims. Indeed, Plaintiff's argument in opposition to the motion bears out this point. In this regard, Plaintiff asserts:

The plaintiff's complaint is much longer than most complaints . . . . [I]t describes a three-year battle between the defendants and the plaintiff, her valiant attempts to keep her job aid [sic] her futile attempt to get the defendants to accommodate her disability.

The plaintiff has alleged in her Complaint facts supporting her claims that she had a disability and/or was perceived as having a disability under both the American [sic] with Disabilities Act . . . and the New York State Human Rights Law . . . . Due to the vagaries of the definition of "disability" under both the ADA and the NYSHRL, the plaintiff had to allege in her complaint how she meets those definitions. Because her case focuses on the defendant's failure to accommodate her disability, she has alleged, in detail, her repeated ...


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