To determine whether a motion to dismiss should be granted, the court must first examine the complaint. The complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The complaint must provide the defendant with fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. The plaintiff, however, has an obligation to allege the essential material facts of the case. In reviewing the complaint, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Indeed, the facts as alleged by the plaintiff cannot be disbelieved by the court. Where there are conflicting interpretations of the facts, they must be construed in the plaintiff's favor. However, legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences should not be accepted as true.
A bank received a credit card application listing an address where the victim had never lived. After the account had exceeded the credit limit, the bank sent the debt to a collection agency. The bank failed to ever investigate whether the account was created with a stolen identity. The trial court held that the injury resulting from issuing a wrongful credit card was foreseeable and preventable. Thus, the bank was negligent. Further, the bank communicated false, defamatory statements about the victim, thereby committing defamation as well. The bank filed a motion to dismiss.
Did the plaintiff sufficiently plead his negligence and defamation claims such that the defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied?
The court denied the bank’s motion to dismiss as to the negligence and libel claims. It held that the plaintiff successfully established claims for both causes of action, and the matter should proceed. A valid claim for libel requires (1) the statement be defamatory, (2) the statement was published to a third party, (3) the publication of the statement injured the plaintiff’s reputation, and (4) the statement does not relate to a matter of public concern. Further, if the plaintiff is a private citizen and the matter is of private concern, the defendant need not have demonstrated actual malice. A valid claim for negligence requires (1) a duty of care owned by the defendant, (2) conduct that falls below the standard of care, (3) an injury, (4) causation in fact, and (5) proximate legal cause.