A case of first impression for the 8th circuit, in Ahern Rentals Inc. v. EquipmentShare.com Inc. et al., 22-1399.-- (February 7, 2023) – prevailing the standard of today and held that allegations pled on information and belief are not categorically insufficient to state a claim for relief where the proof supporting the allegation is within the sole possession and control of the defendant or where the belief is based on sufficient factual material that makes the inference of culpability plausible.
Ahern Rentals initially filed suit in the Eastern District of Missouri alleging that EquiptmentShare.com and EZ Equipment Zone had engaged in a conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets from Ahern to gain an unfair competitive advantage. The suit was transferred to the Western District of Missouri, where a series of separate suits Ahern brought against EquipmentShare and several former employees have been consolidated into multi-district litigation.
The District Court ruled that the allegations of EZ’s actions were based merely upon “information and belief.” In dismissing EZ from the suit, the district court held that it was not sufficient to demonstrate that the claims were plausible rather than just conceivable.
Pleading on information and belief is codified by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(3) “[A]n attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances…the factual contentions have evidentiary support…” However, the 8th Circuit had never fully articulated when plaintiffs may use “information-and-belief” pleadings in a complaint to satisfy Twombly’s pleading requirement.
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About the Author: Jennifer Dancy
Jenny is senior counsel in Tressler's Litigation Practice Group. She focuses her practice in general defense litigation, personal injury, constitutional torts, local government law issues, transportation, property damage, insurance coverage and employment law. Jenny relies upon her vast courtroom, deposition, motion practice, discovery and appellate experience to handle all aspects of litigation. She has effectively litigated cases in counties throughout Missouri and Texas as well as in various federal and appellate courts. Jenny has had positive outcomes through alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and has also had many successful dispositive motions in both state and federal courts.
Jenny Dancy practices in Tressler's Chicago and St. Louis Metro Area offices. She is admitted to the bar in Illinois, Missouri, and Texas. Click here to read Jenny's full attorney biography.