Sunday, August 9, 2009

Two views of Iqbal

There has been a lot of talk recently about the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court case Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). In this case, the Court decided 5-4 that the plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because he had neglected to present concrete factual evidence of his claim at the time that he filed it. The debate has centered on whether the decision would be expanded to any kind of case. It appears that it has. The case is being used in support of motions to dismiss with increasing frequency in all types of cases. The PopTort blog has cited an article on the New York Times stating that the Iqbal decision has already been cited “more than 500 times” in dismissal decisions involving anything from a breach of contract case to a disability discrimination suit. Other sources state it has been used in support of orders to dismiss in torts cases also. Consumer advocates criticize this development arguing that there’s good reason to make sure the discovery process can go ahead before a case is dismissed. As the PopTort blog states, "wrongdoers aren’t always forthcoming with information about their screw-ups, and filing lawsuits can be the only way injured parties can get to the bottom of what happened." Conversely, defendants and their representatives love the expanding interpretation and application of Iqbal. The Drug and Device Law Blog has highlighted it with a series of posts (here and here) arguing "in ninety percent of pharmaceutical product liability complaints, plaintiffs plead claims for manufacturing defect and design defect. And those claims are almost always hokum -- plaintiffs plead 'em, but plaintiffs don't have any facts to support 'em, and those claims eventually disappear."

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