© 2009 The Medical-Legal News
Defense attorneys are likely aglow after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Ashcroft v. Iqbal case. The case could have ramifications for how pleadings are drafted in all civil suits, according to a law.com article of May 20.
According to the article, Iqbal has expanded on the Court’s heightened factual requirements for a plaintiff which were first put forth in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly (2007). There, the bar was raised on the amount of detail needed under Rule 8 to draft a complaint that can survive the defense side’s motion to dismiss.
Some experts see the Court’s move as further chipping away at the liberal, plaintiff-friendly approach to pleadings that has prevailed for decades, according to the article.
Rule 8, which governs pleadings drafting, was for a long time interpreted under 1957’s Conley v. Gibson case, which said that “fair notice” of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests is enough, according to Chase Law School professor Davida Isaacs.
Conley said of sufficiency: “A complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief.”
Later, a shift: The Supreme Court’s Twombly antitrust case ruling of 2007 resulted in the creation of more pre-trial work for the plaintiff side. The case required that a plaintiff must allege facts “plausibly” suggesting the existence of an action. Pros and cons to Twombly are argued. Presumably, more facts must be known pre-trial, which could be hard to discern without the power of discovery that occurs once a suit is underway. Conversely, a greater factual burden on the plaintiff arguably would reduce fishing expeditions and onerous discovery burdens on a defendant.
According to Isaacs, under Twombly, a complaint had to contain facts to support the elements of the claim — simply alleging the elements of the claim, without facts to support it, was no longer enough.
Shortly after Twombly, the Court was more lenient with a pro se (represents oneself) prisoner plaintiff in Erickson v. Pardus, so it was unclear if Twombly applied outside of business litigation.
Now, in Iqbal, Twombly has clearly expanded outside of business litigation, according to the law.com article. In Iqbal, the plaintiff said in his pleading that Ashcroft was the “principal architect” of the policies at issue. Justice Kennedy said this statement was “conclusory and not assumed to be true.”