United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge
case is before me on a motion (Doc. No. 3) to dismiss, or in
the alternative, motion for a more definite statement, by
defendant American Family Mutual Insurance Company (American
Family). Plaintiff Tycha Black (Black) has filed a resistance
(Doc. No. 8) and American Family has filed a reply (Doc. No.
10). I find that oral argument is not necessary. See
Local Rule 7(c).
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed her petition on February 6, 2018, in the Iowa District
Court for Webster County alleging breach of contract (Count
I), fraud (Count II) and libel (Count III), arising out of
the termination of her agency agreement with American Family.
See Doc. No. 6.
alleges she became an agent for American Family on September
26, 2008. See Doc. No. 6 at 1. She entered into an
Agent Agreement (the Agreement) with American Family on
September 28, 2008. Id. On December 4, 2017,
American Family terminated the Agreement. Id. at
1-2. In its termination letter to Black, American Family
stated it was terminating the Agreement because she
“manipulated company systems in order to provide
coverage for a relative's claim.” Id. at
federal diversity jurisdiction, American Family removed the
case to this court on March 14, 2018, and filed its motion
(Doc. No. 3) to dismiss the same day. It alleges Counts II
(Fraud) and III (Libel) should be dismissed for failure to
state a claim or, alternatively, that Black should be
required to submit a more definite statement to which it can
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorize a pre-answer
motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
The Supreme Court has provided the following guidance in
considering whether a pleading properly states a claim:
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading
must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” As the
Court held in [Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)], the
pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require
“detailed factual allegations, ” but it demands
more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation. Id., at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (citing
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct.
2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). A pleading that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual
enhancement.” Id., at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955.
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id., at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id.,
at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955. The plausibility standard is not akin
to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully. Ibid. Where a complaint pleads facts
that are “merely consistent with” a
defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line
between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to
relief.' ” Id., at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009).
assess “plausibility” by “‘draw[ing]
on [their own] judicial experience and common
sense.'” Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d
1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679). Also, courts “‘review the plausibility
of the plaintiff's claim as a whole, not the plausibility
of each individual allegation.'” Id.
(quoting Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp.,
592 F.3d 893, 896 n. 4 (8th Cir. 2010)). While
factual “plausibility” is typically the
focus of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, federal courts
may dismiss a claim that lacks a cognizable legal
theory. See, e.g., Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d
953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d
448, 469 (3d Cir. 2013); Commonwealth Prop. Advocates,
L.L.C. v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 680 F.3d
1194, 1202 (10th Cir. 2011); accord Target Training
Intern., Ltd. v. Lee, 1 F.Supp.3d 927 (N.D. Iowa 2014).
complaint does not state a claim for relief that is plausible
on its face, the court must consider whether it is
appropriate to grant the pleader an opportunity to replead.
The rules of procedure permit a party to respond to a motion
to dismiss by amending the challenged pleading “as a
matter of course” within 21 days. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). Thus, when a motion to dismiss
highlights deficiencies in a pleading that can be cured by
amendment, the pleader has an automatic opportunity to do so.
When the pleader fails to take advantage of this opportunity,
the question of whether to permit an amendment depends on
considerations that include:
whether the pleader chose to stand on its original pleadings
in the face of a motion to dismiss that identified the very
deficiency upon which the court dismissed the complaint;
reluctance to allow a pleader to change legal theories after
a prior dismissal; whether the post-dismissal amendment
suffers from the same legal or other deficiencies as the