Ashcroft v. Iqbal (U.S. May 18, 2009)

In today’s New York
Times, Adam Liptak discusses a quick but quiet revolution in the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure that may apply to the identically worded Florida Rule 1.110(b):


For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a
plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call “a short
and plain statement of the claim” in a document called a complaint. Having
filed such a bare-bones complaint, plaintiffs were entitled to force defendants
to open their files and submit to questioning under oath.”


But, in Federal
Court, no more.  In the case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal (U.S. 2008), the Supreme Court
interpreted Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which states that “
a pleading must contain a ‘short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,’”
to set forth the following test:


“[A] complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.’”


The Court went on to
explain how its new interpretation deviates from past case law:


“First, the tenet
that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice. . .  Rule 8 marks a notable and
generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior
era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with
nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. 
Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief
will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.


. . .


In keeping with
these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.”


Federal Rule 8(a)
is virtually identical to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.110(b), but Florida
Courts still apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s old test.  I am not aware of any opinions from the Florida Courts confronting the Iqbal decision, but I predict such a decision is coming.