Strictures of Twombly and Iqbal Apply to Jurisdictional Allegations and to Affirmative Defenses

From Haley Paint Co. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34925 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2011):

The Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Iqbal did not specifically address the pleading requirements for jurisdiction, and the issue has not been resolved by the Fourth Circuit. However, this issue of first impression, has, at least implicitly been addressed by other courts. For example, in Palnik v. Westlake Entertainment, Inc., 344 Fed. App'x 249 (6th Cir. 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court's dismissal on 12(b)(2) personal jurisdiction grounds and specifically noted that when "a court decides a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction . . . the complaint must have established with reasonable particularity those specific facts that support jurisdiction." Id. at 251 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 567). In Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063 (10th Cir. 2008), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that in reviewing a district court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, it must take as true "all well-pled (that is, plausible, non-conclusory, and non-speculative, see [Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554]) facts alleged in plaintiffs' complaint." Id. at 1070. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, has, albeit without citing to Twombly or Iqbal, essentially applied those standards in holding that on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction "the court is not bound by conclusory statements, without supporting facts." Schmidt v. Martec Indus. Corp., No. 07-5020, 2009 WL 2883071, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 03, 2009).

It does not appear as though those courts were specifically asked to determine whether Twombly and Iqbal apply to the pleading of jurisdictional facts — those courts merely applied the pleading standards to the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint as opposed to the factual allegations. That approach is logical because similar language is used in Rule 8 to describe the requirements for pleading both claims in a complaint and the grounds for jurisdiction. Compare Rule 8(a)(2) (requiring a pleader stating a claim for relief to provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief") with Rule 8(a)(1) (requiring a pleader stating a claim for relief to provide "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction"). Indeed, it would be highly incongruous to require separate pleading standards for two subsections of the same rule. Moreover, the factual nature of the claims surrounding the grounds for jurisdiction are, more often than not, intertwined with the factual allegations showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. As such, this Court concludes that the pleading standards articulated in Twombly and Iqbal apply to Rule 8(a)(1) which requires "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction."

Footnote 5. This Court notes that it previously held that Twombly and Iqbal apply to the pleading standard for affirmative defenses, another subsection of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. See Bradshaw v. Hilco Receivables, LLC, 725 F. Supp. 2d 532, 535-37 (D. Md. 2010).

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