Pleading standards in environmental cases following the Supreme Court’s decisions in Twombly and Iqbal

Vol. 44 No. 2

Gregory M. Gotwald and Brianna J. Schroeder practice law at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP and were counsel of record to plaintiff in the Z-J-, Inc. v. Pfizer case.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent “adjustments” to the federal pleading standard may significantly affect toxic tort and long-tail environmental contamination claims. The Court began making these adjustments (some call it a clarification, others claim it is a real change) to the pleading standard in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The Court held that “[w]hile 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 ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted). The Court characterized the standard as a question of plausibility: “[a]sking for plausible grounds to infer an agreement [to restrain trade] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal agreement.” Id. at 556.

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The Law of Adaptation to Climate Change: United States and International Aspects