Laura L. Walsh vs. U.S. Bank, Minnesota Supreme Court August 6, 2014 Decision

The Plausibility Standard for Federal Pleadings Does Not Apply in Minnesota

Foreclosure Home For Sale Sign and House with Dramatic Sky Background.

On August 6, 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that there was no compelling reason to depart from the traditional pleading standard for civil actions in Minnesota under that well-established standard, the claim is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim if it is possible on any evidence which might be produced, consistent with the pleader’s theory, to grant the relief demanded.

In Laura L. Walsh vs. U.S Bank, Walsh defaulted on her mortgage of her property in Minneapolis. U.S. Bank, the mortgage holder, initiated a non-judicial foreclosure proceeding. U.S. Bank attempted to serve an adult at Walsh’s property. The process server identified the adult as “Jane Doe” and attempted to serve her with the notice of foreclosure sale and additional documents. The process server documented that Jane Doe was an “occupant” of the property at the time of service. The process server stated that Jane Doe refused to give her name or accept service and yelled at the process server. The process server ultimately left the foreclosure documents “in a secure place” in the door. No further service was attempted.

Following the foreclosure of the property, Walsh sued U.S. Bank due to the ineffective service of the foreclosure documents in violation of Minn. Stat. § 580.03 and Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.03(a). Her allegations were that when U. S. Bank tried to serve the documents the only persons at the property were Walsh and her male roommate. Walsh stated that neither she nor her roommate was ever served with the foreclosure documents. There was no explanation as to who Jane Doe was or if Jane Doe was at Walsh’s property when the service was attempted.

U.S. Bank moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. U.S. Bank mostly relied on Bell Atlantic Corp. vs. Twombly, which states that a complaint must have enough facts on its face to state a claim that relief is plausible. The District Court dismissed Walsh’s complaint with prejudice. 550 U.S. 544 (2007). On appeal the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court granted review to determine if the plausibility standard in Bell Atlantic Corp.governs civil pleadings and Minnesota.

The Minnesota Supreme Court analyzed Minnesota rules of civil procedure specifically Rule 8.01 which states “[a] pleading which sets forth a claim for relief… Shall contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In contrast,the United States Supreme Court in Twombly created a new pleading standard for civil actions in federal court called the plausibility standard. Under the plausibility standard, a pleading must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

The court also highlighted the fact that it has cited to Twombly very few times in that it has failed to out rightly adopt the plausibility standard. Based on that history, or lack thereof in Minnesota, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to adopt the plausibility standard into Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 8.01. The Supreme Court also recognized the glaring irony in refusing to adopt the plausibility standard considering that Minnesota’s Rule 8.01 is identical to the federal counterpart located at 8(a) (2) and explained it away by holding that the federal rule is merely “instructive” but not binding. As a result, all civil pleadings in Minnesota will continue to be analyzed under Rule 8.01 when determining if it provides enough showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.