• September 9, 2011

“My client fell and was badly hurt on your property and it is your fault…”  Is that sufficient detail to state a personal injury claim under the standard in federal court?  Irina Reshetnikova and her lawyer presumably hope so because that is, more or less, the sum total of her complaint, which she brought in Minnesota state court but which the defendants removed to federal court this week (defendants live in Charlotte, North Carolina (where their friend Irina had her fall) so they therefore claim a right to federal court based on diversity of citizenship).

On the one hand, federal courts, directed by the U.S. Supreme Court hold that, “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual  allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the `grounds’ of his `entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”

On the other hand, federal courts, directed by the U.S. Supreme Court, are instructed that a very bare-bones negligence complaint is acceptable (see Form 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).  There is also Eighth Circuit precedent suggesting that adherence to the barebones forms is sufficent.

So perhaps the “heightened pleading standard” set by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Iqbal and Twombly decisions will, over time, seem to be applied more rigorously in some cases than others and less rigorously in those cases that adhere to the court’s own rules as to acceptable pleadings?

Time will tell.  It will be interesting to see if defendants in the Reshetnikova case take a run at the sufficiency of the complaint against them before Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson (D. Minn.), to whom the case has been assigned.

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