CIVIL PROCEDURE PARDIECK SPRING 2017
Story Of Pleading
Rule 7. Pleadings Allowed; Form of Motions and Other Papers
(a) Pleadings. Only these pleadings are allowed:
(1) a complaint;
(2) an answer to a complaint;
(3) an answer to a counterclaim designated as a counterclaim;
(4) an answer to a crossclaim;
(5) a third-party complaint;
(6) an answer to a third-party complaint; and
(7) if the court orders one, a reply to an answer.
(b) Motions and Other Papers.
(1) In General. A request for a court order must be made by motion. The motion must:
(A) be in writing unless made during a hearing or trial;
(B) state with particularity the grounds for seeking the order; and
(C) state the relief sought.
(2) Form. The rules governing captions and other matters of form in pleadings apply to motions and other papers.
Rule 8. General Rules of Pleading
(a) Claim for Relief. A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:
(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.
(e) Construing Pleadings. Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.
Rule 10. Form of Pleadings
(a) Caption; Names of Parties. Every pleading must have a caption with the court’s name, a title, a file number, and a Rule 7(a) designation. The title of the complaint must name all the parties; the title of other pleadings, after naming the first party on each side, may refer generally to other parties.
(b) Paragraphs; Separate Statements. A party must state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances. A later pleading may refer by number to a paragraph in an earlier pleading. If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence–and each defense other than a denial–must be stated in a separate count or defense.
(c) Adoption by Reference; Exhibits. A statement in a pleading may be adopted by reference elsewhere in the same pleading or in any other pleading or motion. A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.
Rule 12. Defenses and Objections: When and How Presented; Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; Consolidating Motions; Waiving Defenses; Pretrial Hearing
(b) How to Present Defenses. Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required. But a party may assert the following defenses by motion:
(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and
Pleadings serve the function of giving notice to the opposing parties.
Each claim for relief should contain:
A short statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction;
A short statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
Haddle v. Garrison
A court should dismiss a claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.
Facts: Haddle was an at-will employee of Healthmaster Home Health Care. He sued his former employer and Garrison (defendant), an officer of Healthmaster, alleging he was wrongfully terminated to discourage his participation as a witness in a criminal trial. The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court held that the statute under which he sought relief, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2), precluded relief for an at-will employee, and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Haddle appealed to the court of appeals which upheld the decision of the lower court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Holding and Reasoning: Certiorari was granted to resolve a circuit split over whether an at-will employee who is wrongfully terminated suffers an actual injury within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Haddle did suffer actual injury, as he was terminated as part of a conspiracy by his employer to prevent him from testifying against Garrison and Healthmaster in a criminal trial. There is no requirement in § 1985(2) of the statute that a petitioner must suffer an injury to a property interest in order to state a claim. In addition, an employee who is wrongfully terminated as part of a malicious conspiracy to intimidate him does suffer an injury to his person or property, regardless of whether he is an at-will employee. The dismissal by the Eleventh Circuit is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
A demand for judgment for relief, which may be in the alternative.
The federal pleading rules generally require only that a pleader put the other side on notice of the claim being asserted; detailed assertions of facts underlying the claim generally are not required. However, the Supreme Court in recent years has required that the plaintiff state facts supporting a plausible (not just possible) claim. [Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)]
Ashcroft v. Iqbal
Under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a complaint will only survive a motion to dismiss if it alleges nonconclusory facts that, taken as true, state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
Facts: Javaid Iqbal (plaintiff) was arrested and detained during the investigation of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Iqbal claimed that the conditions of the custody violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution and sued former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, and other officials (defendants) in district court. The complaint accused Ashcroft of being the “principal architect” and Mueller of being “instrumental” in the implementation of a discriminatory policy of confining individuals in harsh conditions based solely on their “religion, race, and/or national origin.” Ashcroft and Mueller claimed qualified immunity and moved to dismiss Iqbal’s complaint for failure to state a claim. The district court refused to dismiss the case, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the ruling on interlocutory appeal. Ashcroft and Mueller petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted.
Holding and Reasoning: Under Twombly, a complaint must allege sufficient facts that, if taken as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” in order to defeat a motion to dismiss. Facial plausibility means that the facts alleged permit a “reasonable inference” that the defendant is, in fact, liable. The plausibility determination in any particular case is left to the reasoned and experienced judgment of the trial court. Although the facts in the complaint must be taken as true, the court is not required to afford legal conclusions the same deference. The court may begin its inquiry by determining which allegations need not be taken as true. In this case, the allegations regarding Ashcroft and Mueller’s knowledge or intent are not “unrealistic or nonsensical,” but are conclusory and need not be accepted as true. Further, even though the allegations of discrimination are “consistent” with Iqbal’s claims, there are other, more reasonable, alternative explanations. Although the complaint may state a claim against other defendants, the charges against Ashcroft and Mueller do not plausibly indicate anything more than a policy of keeping individuals suspected of terrorism under tight security pending a full investigation. Additional facts are needed to take the complaint from merely “conceivable to plausible.” Even though a plaintiff may plead subjective knowledge and intent “generally” under FRCP Rule 9(b), this does not negate the requirements of Rule 8. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 8 sets forth the basic requirements for pleadings in any civil action, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the rule in Twombly is applicable to all such actions regardless of subject matter. Because Iqbal has not made the required showing of plausibility, the complaint does not state a claim against Ashcroft and Mueller. The ruling of the court of appeals is reversed, and the matter is remanded for consideration of whether Iqbal should be permitted to amend the complaint.
Swanson v. Citibank, N.A.
Under the plausibility standard espoused in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a court is not to consider whether a set of facts are probable, but rather, whether a set of facts are possible.
Facts: Gloria Swanson (plaintiff) applied for a home-equity loan with Citibank, N.A. (Citibank) (defendant). Upon speaking to a Citibank representative, Swanson suspected that the representative was discouraging her from applying because she was black, and asked to speak with a manager. Swanson disclosed to the representative and manager that she had previously been denied a home-equity loan by another bank. The manager informed Swanson that it was more difficult to obtain a loan at Citibank than at other banks. Swanson nevertheless applied for a loan the next day. Citibank conditionally approved Swanson based upon her representation that her home was worth $270,000.00. Citibank thereafter arranged for Andre Lanier (defendant) of PCI Appraisal Services (PCI) (defendant) to appraise Swanson’s home. Lanier appraised Swanson’s home at $170,000.00. Swanson subsequently hired another appraiser, who valued her home at $240,000.00. In light of Lanier’s low appraisal, Citibank declined to grant Swanson a home-equity loan. Swanson brought suit against the defendants, alleging they violated Fair Housing Act § 3605 by working together to devalue her home in the appraisal as a pretense to deny her a loan on account of her race. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court dismissed her complaint for failure to state a claim.
Holding and Reasoning: Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009) set forth the requirement that a complaint state a plausible claim. The term “plausible” does not mean that a court should determine what set of facts is more likely or probable. Rather, the plausibility standard only requires a plaintiff to allege a set of facts that are possible. Here, Swanson has alleged discrimination on the basis of race against Citibank, Lanier, and PCI. In regards to her claim against Citibank, Swanson has identified the type of discrimination alleged, the actors she believes responsible for the discrimination, and the t
(1) In General. Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. No technical form is required.
(2) Alternative Statements of a Claim or Defense. A party may set out 2 or more statements of a claim or defense alternatively or hypothetically, either in a single count or defense or in separate ones. If a party makes alternative statements, the pleading is sufficient if any one of them is sufficient.
(3) Inconsistent Claims or Defenses. A party may state as many separate claims or defenses as it has, regardless of consistency.
Jones v. Bock
Exhaustion is an affirmative defense that must be plead and proved by the defendant.
Facts: Jones (plaintiff) brought suit against the prison in which he was held when the staff did not reassign him to different work after he suffered injuries. Jones claimed that performing his work and the failure of the staff to reassign him aggravated his injuries. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PRLA) of 1995 requires exhaustion of administrative remedies before a prisoner can bring an action in federal court.
Holding and Reasoning: The PRLA is ambiguous as to whether exhaustion is a pleading requirement that the prisoner must satisfy in his complaint or that it is an affirmative defense the defendant must plead and prove. Typically, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, exhaustion is an affirmative defense that the defendant must plead and prove. After an examination of exhaustion requirements in similar federal legislation, it is concluded that inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints. Accordingly, Jones cannot pursue his case in court without first exhausting administrative remedies.
Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers, Inc.
A general denial is ineffective if some of the claims denied are true and not at issue.
Facts: Zielinski (plaintiff) was operating a forklift for J. A. McCarthy, Inc. when he was injured by Sandy Johnson. Zielinski sued Philadelphia Piers, Inc. (defendant) and alleged his injuries were caused by Sandy Johnson’s negligent operation of a forklift owned by Philadelphia Piers. Zielinski alleged that Johnson was an employee and agent of Philadelphia Piers at the time of the accident. Sandy Johnson had worked for Philadelphia Piers for 15 years and was not aware that the company had transferred ownership of the operation and that he had in fact been working for Carload Contractors, Inc. (Carload). Johnson also mistakenly testified that he had been working for Philadelphia Piers at pretrial depositions attended by representatives of Philadelphia Piers, who had made a general denial of the allegations in the complaint but did not clarify that it had transferred the operation to Carload Contractors. Carload, Philadelphia Piers, and the insurance company that provided insurance to both companies were aware of Zielinski’s error. Zielinski did not discover that he had sued the wrong company until the pretrial conference. Zielinski moved to estop Philadelphia Piers from denying the facts alleged in the complaint because the company had allowed him to believe that they were true, in effect anticipating a dismissal of the complaint based on false statements of the parties and suing the wrong party.
Holding and Reasoning: A defendant who knowingly makes inaccurate statements may be estopped from denying those statements at trial. A general denial is ineffective if some of the claims denied are true and not at issue. Philadelphia Piers should have made a specific denial of the parts of the complaint it knew to be false and should have admitted the parts that were true. A specific denial would have warned Zielinski of his mistake. Under Pennsylvania law, when an improper and ineffective answer has been filed and the time allowed to amend the answer has passed, a party will be estopped from denying the allegation and any improper allegations will be deemed as true. Philadelphia Piers does not have a right to knowingly foster a mistake by its acts of omission. Philadelphia Piers is estopped from denying the agency of Sandy Johnson and the company’s ownership of the forklift. If Zielinski’s complaint were dismissed he would be deprived of his day in court because the statute of limitations makes it such that Carload was beyond the point where it could be sued. The matter should be allowed to proceed against the proper party.