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García-Catalán v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

November 4, 2013, Decided

No. 12-1907

Opinion

 [*101]  SELYA, Circuit Judge. In a pair of watershed cases — Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007) — the Supreme Court retreated from the historic pleading standard that it had previously established in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-48, 78 S. Ct. 99, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957), and replaced that standard with a standard centered on plausibility. This plausibility standard has become the "new normal" in federal civil practice. A.G. v. Elsevier, Inc., [No. 12-1559], 732 F.3d 77,    , 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 20921 at *2 (1st Cir. 2013).

The district courts, through no fault of their own, have struggled with the implementation of the new standard. As with many changes in preexisting practice,  [**2] the devil is in the details.

This case illustrates the point. In it, the district court, in a well-intentioned effort to walk the new line, applied the plausibility standard too mechanically. As a result, it improvidently dismissed the plaintiff's complaint. We reverse.

In her complaint, plaintiff-appellant Itzel García-Catalán alleges that on June 24, 2009 she visited the commissary at Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. While [*102]  strolling through one of the aisles, she "slipped and fell on liquid then existing there," sustaining serious injuries. No sign warned that the floor was wet.

The appellant duly filed an administrative claim with the United States. After the statutory period for disposition of her claim expired without a decision, see 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a), the appellant repaired to the federal district court and sued the United States for the negligence of its employees at the commissary. She premised her action on the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680.

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734 F.3d 100 *; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 22343 **; 86 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1386; 2013 WL 5878960

ITZEL GARCÍA-CATALÁN, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant, Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Daniel R. Domínguez, U.S. District Judge.

Garcia-Catalan v. United States, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29439 (D.P.R., Feb. 8, 2012)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

district court, dangerous condition, commissary, allegations, discovery, injuries

Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Torts, Liability, Federal Tort Claims Act, Elements, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Sovereign Immunity, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Duty On Premises, Invitees, Business Invitees, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Weight & Sufficiency, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview