Easy Essay Question from the 1999 CivPro Exam
Multiple Choice from the 2006 CivPro Exam

Multiple Choice from the 2004 CivPro Exam

With updated answers:

Question 2.

P’s lawyer, L, drafts and signs a complaint against D, which L files in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. After an adequate allegation of jurisdiction, the complaint alleges that “D breached her duty of care to P, resulting in damages of $100,000.” The complaint then asks for compensatory damages and whatever other relief the court finds appropriate. Which of the following is most accurate?

a. The complaint fails to state a claim and should be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

b. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 11.

c. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

d. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b).

e. Summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 should be granted to D.

ANSWERS

a. The complaint fails to state a claim and should be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

Wrong. A complaint fails to state a claim if it fails to allege facts that constitutre a cause of action under applicable law. For example, a complaint for negligence would fail to state a claim if it left out an allegation of damages, or causation, or the defendant's breach of a duty of care. That is not the problem with this complaint. The problem is that we do not know how D breached her duty of care. The problem is specificity, not failure to state a claim. Because 8(a) deals with specificity, this is not most accurate.

b. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 11.

Wrong. First of all we have no reason to believe that P's "allegations and other factual contentions [lack] evidentiary support." FRCP 11(b)(3). P might have excellent evidence that D breached her duty of care (for example a videotape of D negligently driving into him). A stronger argument could be made that the requirement that P's "claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein [be] warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law" was violated. FRCP 11(b)(2). But the problem with P's allegations is not frivolousness, it is lack of specificity. Assume that the way D breached her duty of care to P is by negligently driving into punching him. If so P's claim is clearly warranted by existing law. For this reason b is not most accurate. 

c. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

Correct. The problem with the complaint is a lack of specificity. FRCP 8(a) does not require much of pleaders as far a specificity is concerned. All they have to do is provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Nevertheless, even if one does not take into account Twombly and Iqbal, the standard can be violated, and this is an example. A complaint must give the defendant sufficient notice that he can answer and prepare a defense. This complaint fails to do that. 

d. The complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b).

Wrong. FRCP 9(b) is a special pleading rule that applies to allegations of fraud and mistake. We have no reason to believe that the rule applies in this case. 

e. Summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 should be granted to D.

Wrong. The appropriateness of summary judgment for D can be determined only by looking behind the pleadings at the evidence. If, in the light of the evidence presented by P and/or D, the court determines that no reasonable jury could find for P, summary judgment for D is appropriate. But we have no idea what evidence P and/or D have. P's evidence could be sufficient to withstand a summary judgment motion by D. P's problem is with his pleading, not his evidence. 

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