Cite as FSM Dev. Bank v. Nait ,
7 FSM Intrm. 398 (Pohnpei 1996)

[7 FSM Intrm. 397]



Defendants and Third-Party Plaintiffs,


Third-Party Defendants.


(Consolidated Case Nos. 1994-066,
1994-068 1994-078, 1994-091)


Andon L. Amaraich
Chief Justice

Decided:  February 15, 1996

For the Plaintiff:            Douglas Parkinson, Esq.
                                       Law Offices of R. Barrie Michelsen
                                       P.O. Box 1450
                                       Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941

For the Defendants:     Charles Greenfield, Esq.
                                       Micronesian Legal services Corporation
                                       P.O. Box 129
                                       Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941

For the Third-Party       Todd Richards, Esq.
Defendant:                    Assistant Attorney General
                                       Office of Pohnpei Attorney General
                                       P.O. Box 1555
                                       Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941

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Civil Procedure ) Pleadings
     In view of the liberal discovery rules and procedures available, motions for more definite

[7 FSM Intrm. 398]

statement are generally disfavored, and are granted, not if a better affirmative pleading would enable the movant to provide a more enlightening or accurate response, but only if the pleadings addressed are so vague that they cannot be responded to.  Whether such a motion should be granted is generally a matter within the court's discretion.  FSM Dev. Bank v. Nait, 7 FSM Intrm. 397, 399 (Pon. 1996).

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ANDON L. AMARAICH, Chief Justice:

     On January 4, 1996, plaintiff filed its Answer to Defendants' Counterclaim, pursuant to FSM Civil Rule 12(a), together with a Motion for More Definite Statement, pursuant to FSM Civil Rule 12(e), in each of Civil Action Nos. 1994-066, 1994-068, 1994-078 and 1994-091.1

     Plaintiff's answer admits or denies each separate averment of defendants' two counterclaims, with the exceptions of paragraphs 14 and 21 of those counterclaims.  In response to these paragraphs, plaintiff's answer incorporates its motion for more definite statement.  That motion asserts that plaintiff is unable to admit or deny the averments of these paragraphs because they incorporate other paragraphs by reference,2 and as a result, their meaning is no longer "simple, concise and direct" as required by FSM Civil Rule 8(e)(1).3  Paragraphs 14 and 21 incorporate paragraph 3 of defendants' answer by reference, and paragraph 3, in turn, both admits and denies portions of plaintiff's own complaint.  Therefore, plaintiff argues, it has been put in the awkward position of having to admit or deny defendants' admissions and denials of the allegations of plaintiff's own complaint. Plaintiff contends that defendants should be required to amend their pleadings to provide a more definite statement of the allegations contained in paragraphs 14 and 21 before plaintiff is required to respond to those paragraphs.

     Rule 12(e) of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure states that

     If a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may

[7 FSM Intrm. 399]

move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading.  The motion shall point out the defects complained of and the details desired.  If the motion is granted and the order of the court is not obeyed within 10 days after notice of the order or within such other time as the Court may fix, the Court may strike the pleading to which the motion was directed or make such order as it deems just.

There do not appear to be any reported decisions construing Rule 12(e) in the FSM as yet.  Accordingly, the Court will look to U.S. interpretations of Rule 12(e) for guidance.4

     Motions for more definite statement are generally disfavored by U.S. federal courts, in view of the liberal discovery rules and procedures available to all parties. These motions are granted only if the pleadings addressed are so vague that they cannot be responded to.  See Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dean, 854 F. Supp. 626, 649 (D. Ariz. 1994); Prudhomme v. Procter & Gamble Mfg. Co., 800 F. Supp 390, 396 (E.D. La. 1992).  Therefore, if a pleading meets the requirements of Rule 8 and fairly notifies the opposing party of the nature of the claim, a motion for more definite statement will not be granted.  See, e.g., Pitcavage v. Mastercraft Boat Co., 632 F. Supp. 842, 850 (M.D. Pa. 1985) (motion denied with respect to counterclaim where plaintiffs were adequately informed of defendant's accusations against them); 2A James W. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice 12.18[1] (2d ed. 1990).  Similarly, if a responding party is able to discharge his pleading obligations under the rules, a 12(e) motion "based on the belief that a better affirmative pleading will enable him to provide a more enlightening or accurate response" will also be denied.  5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1377, at 601-03 (1990).  Whether a motion for more definite statement should be granted is generally a matter within the discretion of the Court.  See Hodgson v. Virginia Baptist Hosp., Inc., 482 F.2d 821, 824 (4th Cir. 1973).  The Court finds these U.S. constructions of Rule 12(e) persuasive, and equally suitable for application in this case.

     Plaintiff does not assert that defendants' counterclaims as a whole are vague and ambiguous, but only that paragraphs 14 and 21 are confusing and do not permit a straightforward admission or denial.  The Court appreciates plaintiff's desire to comply with the requirements of FSM Civil Rules 8(b) and 8(d), which oblige the plaintiff to admit or deny each averment of defendants' counterclaims or risk having those averments deemed admitted.  However, paragraphs 14 and 21 merely reallege earlier paragraphs of defendants' answer, affirmative defenses and counterclaims, and do not purport to add new substance to defendants' pleadings.

     The Court finds that defendants' counterclaims comply with the requirements of FSM Civil Rule 8, and the presence of paragraphs 14 and 21 in defendants' pleading does not affect plaintiffs' ability to frame a responsive pleading to defendants' counterclaims as a whole.  Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for a more definite statement is denied.  Plaintiff's objection to the format of paragraphs 14 and 21 is duly noted, and plaintiff will not be required to further admit or deny these two paragraphs.

     Plaintiff's Motion for More Definite Statement in Civil Actions Nos. 1994-066, 1994-068, 1994-078 and 1994-0991 is hereby denied.

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1.  These cases were consolidated with Civil Action No. 1994-138 on December 13, 1995, due to the common questions of law and fact in each case.  Plaintiff filed a separate Answer to Defendants' Counterclaim and a separate Motion for More Definite Statement in each of these four cases.  Because the filings made in each case are identical, the Court will not distinguish among them.
2.  Paragraph 14 is the initial paragraph of defendants' first counterclaim, and reads in its entirety as follows:  "Defendants reallege those matters in paragraphs No. 3 through 13, above."  Paragraph 21, the first paragraph of defendants' second counterclaim, similarly states "Defendants reallege those matters in paragraphs No. 3 through 20 above."
3.  FSM Civil Rule 8(e)(1) sets out general rules for the submission of pleadings, and states that "[e]ach averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise and direct.  No technical forms of pleadings or motions are required."
4.  Senda v. Mid-Pacific Constr. Co., 6 FSM Intrm. 440, 444 (App. 1994) (when an FSM Rule of Civil Procedure is nearly identical to a U.S. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, and the FSM Rule has not previously been construed by the FSM Supreme Court, it is appropriate to look to the decisions of U.S. federal courts for guidance in interpreting the rule).