FRCP Rule 8 General Rules of Pleading
In 2005, William Twombly sued Bell Atlantic Corporation and other telecommunication companies, alleging that the carriers engaged in “parallel conduct unfavorable to competition” in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Twombly appealed the case, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the ruling. Bell Atlantic appealed, and The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Court of Appeals. The case was dismissed. Justice Souter wrote the opinion, and created the plausibility standard – the plaintiff must show sufficient factual allegations to show plausibility.
Mr. Twombly’s complaint was an inadequate pleading. Pleadings are certain documents filed with the court that state the positions of each party, like a complaint (filed by the plaintiff) and an answer (the response to the complaint).
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guides the general rules of pleadings. There are five sections.
Rule 8(a) lists the plaintiff’s requirements. The plaintiff’s claim for relief must be short and plain, show that the court has jurisdiction, show that he is entitled to relief, and contain the demand for relief sought. The demand for relief sought can include relief in the alternative, meaning that he can put forth several arguments and demands for relief. For example, for damages, he can ask for three years of lost wages, punitive damages, or both.
Rule 8(b) discusses the defense’s answer. In responding to a pleading, the defendant must “state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim,” “admit or deny” the allegations, and fairly respond to its content. If the defendant does not deny all allegations, he must specifically state the claims he does not deny. If he denies part of an allegation, he must admit that part is true and deny the rest. The defendant must state if he lacks knowledge or information to form a belief about the allegation’s truth.
If a responsive pleading is required, and the allegation is not denied, then the allegation is admitted. If a responsive pleading is not required, then the allegation is considered denied or avoided.
Rule 8(c) outlines affirmative defenses, that is, reasons the defendant may give for why a plaintiff should not win. To name a few, defendants can allege assumption of risk, contributory negligence, fraud, illegality, and that the statute of limitations has passed.
The fourth rule – Rule 8(d) – tells that each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. Further, a party may state as many claims or defenses or it has. Consistency does not matter.
The pleading must be construed so as to do justice (Rule 8(e)).
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