Monday, April 8, 2019

Back to Basics: District Court Opinion Serves as a Reminder that Minimum Pleading Standards Must be Met to Stave off Dismissal

By  Caren Enloe and Anna Claire Turpin

A recent District Court decision serves as a reminder to both Plaintiffs and Defendants to properly scrutinize a complaint for well-pleaded factual allegations.  In Walker v. Lyons, Doughty & Veldhuis, P.C., et. al, No. 1:18-cv-513, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42180 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 15, 2019), the Southern District Court in Ohio held that the Plaintiff did not include well-pleaded factual allegations in her Complaint and therefore granted the Defendants’ 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. 

In support of the action alleging violations of the FDCPA, the Plaintiff alleged that she incurred a debt “for purchasing items for personal, family or household purposes.”  The Defendants filed a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss based in part on the Plaintiff’s failure to properly allege that she actually incurred a consumer debt.  

The court reemphasized the minimum pleading standards and determined that merely reciting the statutory language that the debt was incurred “for personal, family, or household purposes” with no other facts does not meet the minimum pleading standards required by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and set forth in the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).  To establish such a claim, the complaint must include more than labels, conclusions, or recitation of the elements and instead must contain sufficient facts to support the reasonable inference that the Defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Therefore, the Plaintiff failed to adequately plead any factual circumstances that would support the claim upon which relief could be granted and the Motion to Dismiss was granted. 

The decision serves as a reminder to both the consumer and defense bar that threadbare allegations are insufficient to support claims and more robust pleading is necessary.


 Anna Claire Turpin is a third year law student at Campbell University School of Law and is currently clerking with Smith Debnam's Consumer Financial Services Litigation and Compliance group.

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