Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Conspiracy Allegations as Insufficient under Iqbal

Per Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., --- F.3d ----, 2009 WL 2431463 (11th Cir. Aug. 11, 2009):

We reiterate that to state a plausible claim for relief, the plaintiffs must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Rule 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964. At the same time, however, the complaint must plead “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Furthermore, unwarranted deductions of fact in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of the allegations. Aldana, 416 F.3d at 1248, and the facts as pled must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face, see Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.
Here, the Garcia plaintiffs' attenuated chain of conspiracy fails to nudge their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. First, while the plaintiffs allege “Aponte's plan necessarily required the cooperation and complicity of the arresting police officers,” we are not required to admit as true this unwarranted deduction of fact. Second, the plaintiffs' allegations of conspiracy are “based on information and belief,” and fail to provide any factual content that allows us “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Specifically, these plaintiffs allege “[t]he basis for the conspiracy was either that Aponte arranged to provide payment to the officers for their participation, or that the officers had a shared purpose with Aponte to unlawfully arrest and detain Plaintiffs because they were union officials and had been branded by Panamco officials as leftist guerillas.” The premise for the conspiracy is alleged to be either payment of money or a shared ideology. The vague and conclusory nature of these allegations is insufficient to state a claim for relief, and “will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.
Furthermore, the complaint fails to allege when or with whom Aponte entered into a conspiracy to arrest, detain, and harm the plaintiffs. The scope of the conspiracy and its participants are undefined. There are no allegations the treatment the plaintiffs received at the hands of the local police and in prison was within the scope of the conspiracy. Additionally, assuming Aponte even conspired with the local police to arrest the plaintiffs, this action alone is insufficient to form the basis of an ATS claim, see Sosa, 542 U.S. at 738, 124 S.Ct. at 2769 (holding “a single illegal detention of less than a day, followed by the transfer of custody to lawful authorities and a prompt arraignment, violates no norm of customary international law so well defined as to support the creation of a federal remedy”), and there is no allegation the subsequent six-month imprisonment and mistreatment was part of the conspiracy. The Garcia plaintiffs, thus, fail to state a plausible claim for relief against the Panamco Defendants for a violation of the law of nations. See 28 U.S.C. § 1350. We conclude the district court did not err in dismissing the ATS claims in the Garcia complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


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