Friday, December 19, 2008

Second Circuit Reverses District Court's Conversion of 12(b)(6) Motion to Summary Judgment Motion

Per Sahu v. Union Carbide Corp., 548 F.3d 59 (2d Cir. Nov. 3, 2008):

When a district court converts a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment, “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). . . .

The district court did not explicitly notify the parties before converting the Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary judgment. That was unnecessary, in the court's view, because the plaintiffs were “on notice of a possible conversion”: “[B]oth parties submitted matters outside the pleadings” and the plaintiffs entitled their opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment....” Sahu I, 418 F.Supp.2d at 411. In light of the particular complexities of this litigation, we disagree with the district court's conclusion that the plaintiffs received sufficient notice.

. . .

We think that the title of the defendants' memorandum in support of its motion as a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment . . . failed to provide the plaintiffs with adequate notice. A motion called a motion for summary judgment, whether or not stated as alternatively for dismissal, ordinarily will place a plaintiff on notice that the district court is being asked to look beyond the pleadings to the evidence in order to decide the motion. In this case, however, where the plaintiffs had filed a multi-count complaint and the supporting memoranda and evidence can fairly be read to seek only dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) on some counts and summary judgment on others, the motion papers provided insufficient notice. The plaintiffs should have been made aware that all counts could or would be decided under the summary judgment standard in order to give them the opportunity to oppose the motion with evidence and a focused argument.


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