Document Category:
State: Tennessee
Subject Matter: Pleadings
Document Title:
Comments:

Good evening and below is our
report from May of last year regarding the Webb. v. Habitat for Humanity
Court of Appeals opinion regarding the proper pleading standard for a Complaint
in Tennessee state courts (and analysis of an MTD under 12.02(6) for failure to
state a claim).  In October of last year, the Tennessee Supreme Court
granted certiorari to address whether Tennessee would adopt the Federal Twombly/Iqbal
pleading standard.  Attached is the Supreme Court’s opinion and
unfortunately for Defendants across the state – and while there had been a
split in the Tennessee Court of Appeals on the issue – the state Supreme Court
took the opportunity to specifically decline to adopt the SCOTUS’
new Twombly/Iqbal “plausibility” pleading standard in
Tennessee.

 

Here, the Supreme Court affirmed
the judgment of the COA, finding that the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint
sufficiently stated a claim upon which relief may be granted.  To briefly
summarize the Court’s 20-page opinion, it employed 5 main reasons for its
decision to not adopt the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard:

 

1)    The Twombly/Iqbal standard marks a sharp break with the past and
affected a major change in pleading practice in Federal Courts;

2)    The Twombly/Iqbal standard incorporates a judicial determination of
success on the merits at too early a stage in proceedings;

3)    The tests developed in attempting to guide courts on determining
“plausibility” are problematic.  Whether an allegation is a
“fact” or a “conclusion” is fine, blurry, and hard to
detect;

4)    The Twombly/Iqbal requirement to demonstrate plausibility
(rather than mere notice pleading) at the pre-discovery phase of the
case may result in dismissal of some meritorious claims that require discovery
in order to be proven.

5)    There was no sufficient showing that the policy concerns cited by
the SCOTUS in Twombly and Iqbal (weakness of the federal courts in preventing
discovery abuse – encouraging defendants to settle “largely
groundless” claims) were present in TN to the extent they exist in the
federal system. 

 

Thus, Defendants will no longer be able to cite to Twombly and
Iqbal for the proposition that a Plaintiff’s claims must be
“plausible” or they will be subject to dismissal.  TN has now
clarified that mere notice pleading is all that is required.  Let us know
what questions or comments you may have.  Thanks.   

 

 

This Webb v. HFH opinion (attached)
was also released on 4-19-10 – the same day as the Long v. Hillcrest
opinion which we reported on and deals with the similar issue of dismissal of a
Complaint for failure to plead sufficient facts under Rule 8.01 and, here,
8.05.

 

In Webb, Plaintiff filed a claim
against her former employer for retaliatory discharge and violations of certain
Tennessee statutes after she was allegedly fired for challenging the
company’s decision to withhold services to a 74 year old applicant
“because she was too old.”  The COA vacated the trial courts
order granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a
claim. 

 

Although the court vacated the wholesale
dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims, it did hold that Plaintiff failed to
state a claim for the alleged “policies” of the Defendant that
violated certain statutes (Equal Credit Opportunity act and Tennessee Human
Rights act).  Because the Plaintiff provided no “facts. . .to show
the basis for the claims” and instead stated only “conclusory
allegations that discriminatory policies were sought to be implemented by
defendant,” Plaintiff’s claims regarding discriminatory policies
were insufficient to plead the statutory violations.  The court noted that
its prior decision in the Déjà Vu case required alleged statutory
violations to be pled with specificity. 

 

The
Court did find, however, that Plaintiff stated a sufficiently specific factual
allegation with regard to Plaintiff’s claim of retaliatory discharge:
Plaintiff was told “not to allow services to be given to 74 year old
persons because they were too old.”  This opinion affirms the
holding in Déjà Vu and, for LTC defendants, underscores the point that
trial courts should dismiss claims of alleged statutory violations (TAPA,
TNHRRA, etc.) unless they are pled with the specificity that rule 8.05 requires
(state all facts necessary to constitute the breach of the statute).

 

Peter B. Winterburn

ADELMAN LAW FIRM, PLLC

545 S. Main St., Suite 111

Memphis, Tennessee 38103

p] 901.529.9313

f] 901.529.8772

www.adelmanfirm.com

 

Of
Counsel to

Quintairos,
Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A.

www.qpwblaw.com

 

 

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Rebecca
Adelman

 

ADELMAN
LAW FIRM, PLLC

545
S. Main St., Suite 111

Memphis,
Tennessee 38103

p]901.529.9313

f]901.529.8772

www.adelmanfirm.com

 

Of
Counsel to

 

Quintairos,
Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A.

www.qpwblaw.com

 

 


Document Author: Rebecca Adelman
Firm/Company: Adelman Law Firm
Document Date: January 1, 1970
Search Tags: pleadings mtd
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