United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
May 27, 2015
LISA SIEGEL BELANGER and DEVORA C. KAISER, Plaintiffs,
BNY MELLON ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants.
DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS,
Plaintiffs Lisa Siegel Belanger and Devora C. Kaiser ("Plaintiffs")
filed their original Complaint in this action on February 12, 2015 [Docket No.
1]. The Complaint was 462 pages long, contained 2767 numbered paragraphs, and
was accompanied by 393 separate exhibits. On April 2, 2015, the Court granted
several defendants' motions to dismiss the Complaint for failure to comply with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires that any pleading "must
contain... a short and plain statement of the claim, " and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(d)(1), which directs that "[e]ach allegation must be simple,
concise, and direct." [ECF No. 86]. The Court dismissed the Complaint without
prejudice and granted Plaintiffs leave to file an amended pleading in compliance
with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court further warned that if
Plaintiffs filed a second non-compliant pleading, it may be subject to dismissal
On April 23, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint [ECF No.
95]. The Amended Complaint still spans an unwieldy 293 pages and contains
thousands of paragraphs. In addition, Plaintiffs appear to have excised certain
portions of their original Complaint, and re-organized other sections, such that
some paragraphs do not proceed in numbered order. The Amended Complaint also
cites to exhibits that no longer exist. If anything, these changes have made it
more difficult for the defendants and the Court to follow the facts alleged and
understand the nature of the claims asserted.
On May 7, 2015, many defendants filed motions to dismiss the Amended
Complaint,  for the primary reason
that it fails to comply with the applicable pleading standards. The Court
agrees. Although slightly shorter, the Amended Complaint is still in "rambling,
discursive essay form, " which makes it difficult to understand and respond to.
Zuckerman v. McDonald's Corp., No. CIV. A. 95-30044-MAP, 1995 WL 631819, at *1
(D. Mass. Oct. 27, 1995). The purpose of a clear and succinct pleading is to
give defendants fair notice of the claims and their basis as well as to provide
an opportunity for a cogent answer and defense. See Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer
Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008). The Amended Complaint does
not meet this standard, and the Court finds that it would be overly burdensome,
if not impossible, for the forty defendants in this case to parse the
allegations and understand the nature of the claims against them. See Greg
Beeche Logistics, LLC v. Skanska USA Bldg., Inc., C.A. No. 12-11121, 2014 WL
4656503, *5 (D. Mass. Aug. 5, 2014).
Plaintiffs filed an Opposition to the renewed motions to dismiss [ECF
No. 105], insisting that the Amended Complaint (and their original Complaint)
comply with all federal pleading standards. Plaintiffs argue that the length of
a complaint is not dispositive, and they cite a number of cases in which lengthy
complaints were allowed to stand. The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that length
is not dispositive, but the Complaint (and now the Amended Complaint) are not
being dismissed because of their length alone. More importantly, the Court finds
that the Amended Complaint is still so prolix, discursive, and disorganized that
it is insufficient to give each defendant clear notice of which claims pertain
to it, and which alleged facts support those claims. A more concise and
better-organized pleading, with sequentially numbered paragraphs, could help
clarify the specific allegations against each defendant.
Therefore, although the Plaintiffs have been warned once already, the
Court will indulge them with one final opportunity to file an amended pleading
that sets forth a short and plain statement of their claims showing that
Plaintiffs are entitled to relief. This pleading must comply with Rule 8(d)'s
directive that each allegation must be "simple, concise, and direct."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). In this regard, the Court notes that Plaintiffs will need to
do more than simply excise redundant paragraphs. Their pleading must be
reformulated in such a way that it gives each defendant clear notice of the
claim(s) against it, and provides a short and plain statement of the essential
facts underlying those claims, with properly numbered paragraphs. The Court
further suggests to Plaintiffs that this objective should be achievable in far
fewer than 293 pages. For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motions to
dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [ECF Nos. 97 & 98] are ALLOWED, and
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [ECF No. 95] is hereby DISMISSED, without
prejudice. Plaintiffs may file a
Second Amended Complaint that complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
within 14 days from the date of this Order. The Court warns that if Plaintiffs
fail to comply with the pleading rules, their complaint will be dismissed again,
with the Court unlikely to grant further leave to replead.