This is the first in a series of two extremely important cases discussing the standards necessary to adequately plead a claim for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and the grounds upon which it rests.”
In the Bell Atlantic case, the plaintiff sued under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits any agreement in restraint of trade such as a price-fixing agreement.
The Supreme Court’s holding is important: “In applying these general standards to a § 1 claim, we hold that stating such a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made. Asking for plausible grounds to infer an agreement does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal agreement. And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and “that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.”
Comment: this is the first in a line of two Supreme Court decisions setting forth new and slightly more onerous pleading requirements for plaintiffs. Under Bell Atlantic, the plaintiff must include more detail in the complaint – enough to set forth a plausible claim for relief.