April 16, 2020

Mitchell v. E-Z Way Towers. Inc. | Case Brief - 269 F.2d 126 (Fifth Circuit 1959)

FACTS: E-Z Way is a Florida organization which produces, sells, and installs radio and television towers. The Secretary of Labor filed a complaint alleging that E-Z Way failed to pay the minimum wage, failed to keep proper records, and sold goods under those conditions in interstate commerce. 

HISTORY: E-Z Way filed and "Motion for More Definite Statement" (12-e) and a "Motion to Dismiss" ( ). Motion to Dismiss alleged that (1) failure to state a claim and (2) fails to allege in reasonable detail the violations charged. Trial Court granted only the Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim.

ISSUE: How sufficient does a pleading need to be? 

HOLDING: see RATIONALE below

RATIONALE: There seems to be some confusion over the function of Rule 12(b) and Rule 12(e). 12(b) allows no discretion - it just looks to see if the complaint is good or not. 12(e) on the other hand involves the discretion of the trial judge in determining "whether a complaint is such that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading."

Also, vagueness is not a grounds for dismissing a complaint. Dismissing a claim because it is too vague deprives the Plaintiff the use of discovery in obtaining the facts before trial. However, declaring the complaint sufficient allows complete discovery to determine what the case is all about. 12(e) should not be used to assist in getting the facts - rather rules relating to discovery, interrogatories, etc. should be used. Rule 8 is liberal and should not be frustrated by 12(e).

DISPOSITION: Reversed and remanded.