United States District Court, D. Colorado
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WANG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
the parties' Consent to the Exercise of Magistrate Judge
Jurisdiction [#18] and the Order of Reference dated August
31, 2018 [#20]. Pending before this court is Defendant
Anthem, Inc.'s (“Anthem” or
“Defendant”) Motion for a More Definite Statement
(“the Motion”) [#14, filed August 21, 2018],
Plaintiff's Response [#22], and Defendant's Reply
[#26]. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is
Tahonie Watts (“Plaintiff” or “Ms.
Watts”) initiated this pro se action on July
9, 2018 by filing a form complaint. [#1]. Initially, Ms.
Watts only attached the Notice of the Right to Sue from the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). [#1-1]. On July 30, 2018, Ms. Watts
filed an Amended Complaint, which remains the operative
pleading. [#9]. The Amended Complaint did not itself contain
any factual allegations, but instead referred to several
attachments to the Complaint. [Id. at 3.] Those
attachments include the Charge of Discrimination Plaintiff
filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division
(“CCRD”) [Id. at 4] with several
supporting documents, including a detailed personal
Declaration. [Id. at 8-11].
the Complaint itself does not contain any specific
allegations, the attached supporting documents provide
detailed allegations that refer to specific times, places,
incidents, and individuals in support of Plaintiff's
claim. Specifically, Ms. Watts alleges that she began working
as a temporary clerk at Anthem in February 2014. [#9 at 6].
She was then promoted to the role of a Grievances and Appeals
Rep I in November 2014, and she continued in that position
until her termination on September 16, 2016. [Id.]
In December 2014, she took leave under the Family and Medical
Leave Act (“FMLA”) due to complications with her
pregnancy, and she continued to take intermittent FMLA leave
until she gave birth in June 2015. [Id.]. After
giving birth in June 2015, Ms. Watts was diagnosed with
hyperthyroidism and postpartum mood disorder. [Id.].
When she returned to work in August 2015 after her maternity
leave, she continued to take leave to address her conditions,
which Anthem approved. [Id. at 9]. On September 15,
2016, she received a calendar invite from the Director of
Appeals Patricia McGinnis and Human Resources Manager,
Antionette White. [Id.]. At that meeting the
following day, Ms. Watts was terminated for unsatisfactory
performance based on her alleged failure to follow Anthem
policy in sending appeal closure letters to some clients.
[Id.]. Ms. Watts alleged that she had been
terminated based on her disability and she was retaliated
against based on her request for reasonable accommodations
for her disabilities. [Id. at 6, 13]. After
receiving her Notice of Right to Sue dated January 26, 2018
[id. at 15], Ms. Watts initiated this action.
August 21, 2018, Anthem moved for a more definite statement,
arguing that “Plaintiff has . . . alleged no facts
supporting her claim in the Complaint” and therefore
“Defendant has none of the information it needs in
order to prepare a response.” [#14 at 1, 2]. In doing
so, Defendant acknowledged that Plaintiff was proceeding
pro se, but insisted that the binding case law from
the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
(“Tenth Circuit”) required Ms. Watts to follow
the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.
[Id. at 2] (citing Garrett v. Selby Connor
Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005)
(citation omitted)). This court ordered Plaintiff to file her
response on or before September 14 [#17], and Plaintiff
timely filed her Response as ordered. [#22]. In her Response,
Plaintiff stated that she believed that she had the option of
either reproducing the allegations in the form complaint
itself or simply attaching documents. [#22 at 2.] Plaintiff
states she elected the latter because those documents were
prepared by counsel and she believed those documents would be
more helpful than her own recitation. [Id.]
Plaintiff notes that the attachments are detailed and provide
a comprehensive recitation of her allegations. [Id.]
Plaintiff invited defense counsel to specify what particular
allegations needed further support. [Id.]
their Reply, Defendant does not specify what they are unable
to respond to, but rather reiterates its position that
Plaintiff's attachment of the CCRD Charge of
Discrimination is improper. [#26]. Defendant insists that
attaching a document to the Amended Complaint is insufficient
to satisfy Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
[id. at 2], and therefore, this court should order
Ms. Watts to further amend her operative Amended Complaint.
After review of the Amended Complaint and the Parties'
briefing, and in light of Ms. Watt's pro se
status, this court concludes that requiring a further
statement would elevate form over function and therefore
declines to do so.
Motion for More Definite Statement
12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for a
party to move for a more definite statement when a pleading
is “so vague and ambiguous that the party cannot
reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). The
Rule further provides that “[t]he motion … must
point out the defects complained of and the details
desired.” Id. A motion for a more definite
statement is generally disfavored, and is rarely granted
unless the complaint is so exceedingly vague and ambiguous as
to render it unintelligible. Garcia v. I.R.S., No.
12-CV-01824-WYD-KLM, 2012 WL 5387892, at *3 (D. Colo. 2012).
Indeed, courts have observed that as long as a defendant has
reasonable notice of a plaintiff's claim, a motion for
more definite statement will be denied. See Employers
Mut. Cas. Co. v. Downey Excavation, Inc., No.
10-CV-02043-MSK-KMT, 2011 WL 1335839, at *1 (D. Colo. Apr. 7,
2011) (citing 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1377 (3d ed.2004)
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, courts may
consider documents which are attached to the complaint.
Wasatch Equality v. Alta Ski Lifts Co., 820 F.3d
381, 386 (10th Cir. 2016); Gee v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d
1178, 1186 (10th Cir 2010).
Pro Se Litigants
se parties are entitled to liberal construction of their
pleadings. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110
(10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, pro se litigants are
not exempt complying with procedural rules or satisfying
substantive law as is required of represented parties.
See Murray v. City of Tahlequah, 312 F.3d 1196, 1199
n.2 (10th Cir. 2008) (observing that a party's pro se
status does not relieve him of the ...