How to Avoid Getting Shot Down – A Primer on Shotgun Pleadings

Appellate & Trial Support   |   February 10, 2022

The Eleventh Circuit recently reaffirmed its stance on shotgun pleadings, reiterating in  Barmapov v. Amuial that district courts are within their discretion to dismiss with prejudice a shotgun pleading filed by a litigant who is represented by counsel and fails to request leave to amend, so long as the court has given him at least one chance to replead.

This decision is particularly notable, however, because of Judge Tjoflat’s separate concurrence, which provides specific guidance on how attorneys and district courts should proceed when faced with such unwieldy pleadings — with the aim to both help lawyers better serve their clients and to reduce the burden that such pleadings place upon federal courts. This practical and direct advice would be wisely heeded by attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants alike.

First, in order to best vindicate the rights of their clients, plaintiffs’ lawyers must present claims discretely and succinctly. Attorneys are warned “never to plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you cannot.” And they should be on notice that even meritorious claims are subject to dismissal if they are not well pleaded, as was unfortunately the fate of Mr. Barmapov’s potentially viable claims.

Second, district courts are advised to confront shotgun pleadings “head on at the earliest stages of litigation,” immediately ordering a repleader pursuant to the court’s inherent authority. Shotgun pleadings that make it past district courts, the concurrence explains, “wreak havoc on appellate court dockets,” requiring appellate courts to “pore over the record and rebuild the case from scratch.”

Finally, defense counsel faced with a shotgun pleading should either move for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) or to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). While the result may be the same for early pleadings, defense attorneys are cautioned against “diving directly” into the more “labor-intensive” motions to dismiss where a motion for a more definite statement will suffice.

Critically, the concurrence warns that defense counsel should never respond to a shotgun pleading in kind. The Eleventh Circuit has “expressly condemned” the filing of shotgun answers containing affirmative answers that do not respond explicitly to the specific claims asserted, and defendants who choose to respond in kind may forgo, among other things, entitlement to attorneys’ fees.


  • Part of your job representing your client is making the court’s job simpler. When drafting a complaint, ensure that all claims are pleaded distinctly and are well supported by factual allegations. Never bury a claim within immaterial or conclusory allegations, and don’t plead more than is necessary or than can be proven.
  • When faced with a shotgun pleading, carefully consider the repercussions of your response. Avoid responding in kind, and consider whether a motion for a more definite statement will yield the result you need while conserving client resources.

©2023 Carlton Fields, P.A. Carlton Fields practices law in California through Carlton Fields, LLP. Carlton Fields publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information and educational purposes only, and should not be relied on as if it were advice about a particular fact situation. The distribution of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with Carlton Fields. This publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please use our Contact Us form via the link below. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the firm. This site may contain hypertext links to information created and maintained by other entities. Carlton Fields does not control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this outside information, nor is the inclusion of a link to be intended as an endorsement of those outside sites.

Subscribe to Publications


The information on this website is presented as a service for our clients and Internet users and is not intended to be legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. Although we welcome your inquiries, please keep in mind that merely contacting us will not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Consequently, you should not convey any confidential information to us until a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Please remember that electronic correspondence on the internet is not secure and that you should not include sensitive or confidential information in messages. With that in mind, we look forward to hearing from you.