United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell United States District Judge
Court held a status conference on May 25, 2016. Before the
conference, the Court reviewed the parties’ status
report (Doc. 132) and the briefing on Plaintiffs’
motions to dismiss counts 1 and 2 of Union Pacific’s
counterclaim and for a more definite statement on Union
Pacific’s unjust enrichment counterclaim (Doc. 117).
This order will set a briefing schedule and identify
additional issues to be addressed by the parties on the
collateral estoppel argument raised by Plaintiffs, decline to
address the merits arguments made by Plaintiffs on counts 1
and 2, deny the motion for a more definite statement, and
resolve three discovery disputes raised during the
and Kinder Morgan argue that Union Pacific is bound in this
litigation, under principles of collateral estoppel, by the
decision of the California Court of Appeals in Union
Pacific Railroad Co. v. Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines,
Inc., 231 Cal.App.4th 134 (2014), on the question of
rights acquired by Union Pacific or its predecessors under
the pre-1871 Acts and the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act
of 1875. The parties have submitted extensive briefing and
factual material. The Court will hold oral argument on this
issue on July 5, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. The parties each shall
file one additional memorandum, not to exceed 12 pages,
addressing issues A-D identified below. Plaintiffs and Kinder
Morgan shall file their memoranda by June 15, 2016. Union
Pacific shall file its memorandum by June 24, 2016. No
additional briefing is warranted.
Kinder Morgan ask the California trial court to hold that
Union Pacific lacked title under the pre-1871 Acts or the
1875 Act to grant the easements at issue in the litigation?
If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan should provide the Court
with the specific trial court pleadings in which that request
the trial court decide whether Union Pacific had title under
the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements at
issue in that litigation? If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan
should provide the court with the transcript, minute entry,
or order in which the trial court decided that issue. If no,
why did the trial court not decide that issue if it was
raised by Kinder Morgan?
this assertion - that Union Pacific did not have title under
the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements -
raised by Kinder Morgan on appeal to the California Court of
Appeals, either in its notice of appeal or its pre-hearing
briefs? If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan should
provide the Court with the notice of appeal or
pre-oral-argument appellate briefs in which it was raised. If
no, why was it not raised by Kinder Morgan on appeal if, in
fact, it was raised and decided in the trial court?
According to Kinder Morgan’s brief, an issue is
sufficiently litigated for collateral estoppel purposes
“when it is properly raised, by the pleadings
or otherwise, and is submitted for determination, and is
determined.” Doc. 128 at 6 (emphasis in
original; citation omitted). If Kinder Morgan did not ask the
trial court to hold that Union Pacific lacked title under the
pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements, how is
this requirement satisfied?
Merits of Counterclaims 1 and 2.
Court finds that collateral estoppel does not apply, the
Court concludes that it should not attempt to decide the
merits of counterclaims 1 and 2 now. As the amended complaint
makes clear, Union Pacific’s rights under the pre-1871
Acts or the 1875 Act lie at the heart of this case. Doc. 75.
This issue would be better decided on a more complete factual
record, when the Court knows whether these pre-1871 Acts and
the 1875 Act are even at issue with respect to the easements
in this case, and when the Court has a better understanding
of the history and use of the easements. Deciding the issue
now, on the basis of no factual record and truncated briefing
on a motion to dismiss, will not produce a fully-informed
decision. Thus, to the extent that Plaintiffs’ motion
to dismiss asks the Court to rule, independent of collateral
estoppel, that Union Pacific lacked title under the pre-1871
Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements, it is denied
Morgan argues that the counterclaims should be dismissed
under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Doc. 128 at
15-16. But Kinder Morgan is not the defendant in the
counterclaims and has not filed a motion to dismiss.
Plaintiffs do not raise Rooker-Feldman in their
motion. The Court will not address the doctrine.
Motion for More Definite Statement.
12(e) provides that “[a] party may move for a more
definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive
pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that
the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Rule
12(e) motions are “‘ordinarily restricted to
situations where a pleading suffers from unintelligibility
rather than want of detail, and if the requirements of the
general rule as to pleadings are satisfied and the opposing
party is fairly notified of the nature of the claim, such
motion is inappropriate.’” Castillo v.
Norton, 219 F.R.D. 155, 163 (D. Ariz. 2003) (quoting
Sheffield v. Orius Corp., 211 F.R.D. 411, 414-15 (D.
Or. 2002)). “Where the detail sought is available
through discovery, the motion should be denied.”
Wessels v. Moore Excavation, Inc., No.
03:14-CV-01329-HZ, 2014 WL 6750350, at *3 (D. Or. Dec. 1,
Pacific’s unjust enrichment counterclaim alleges that
the company made “substantial improvements to the
property” claimed by Plaintiffs, and that Plaintiffs
would be unjustly enriched if they were granted the right to
use the property without compensating Union Pacific for the
improvements. Countercomplaint, ¶ 48. Plaintiffs argue
that these allegations “are so vague and ambiguous that
Plaintiffs cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Doc.
117 at 16. The Court does not agree. This is not a case where
the pleading suffers from unintelligibility; Plaintiffs
clearly understand that Union Pacific asserts a counterclaim
for unjust enrichment, and do not ...