Legal Memorandum: Reversal of Directive on Pleadings

Issue: What is necessary to reverse Rule 8(e)’s directive that pleadings be construed to do substantial justice?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Pleadings; Substantial justice; Reversal of directive
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 355 U.S. 41; 542 F.2d 466; 550 U.S. 544; 427 F.2d 504; 681 F.2d 546; 849 F.2d 1059
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e), Rule 8(f); Rule 12(b)(6); Bankruptcy Act, § 60, § 70
Date: 08/01/2013

See Shurgard Storage Ctrs. V. Lipton-U. City, LLC, 394 F.3d 1041, 1046-47 (8th Cir. 2005) (defendant contended plaintiff failed to plead unconscionability and, as a result, defendant did not conduct proper discovery on the issue; appellate court, relying on Rule 8’s language relating to a “short and plain statement of the claim” and pleadings being “construed to do substantial justice,” agreed with district court’s finding that complaint sufficiently stated claim in equity that enforcing contract would be unconscionable and stated, “We cannot say the district court abused its discretion in doing so.”).  See also Bank of St. Louis v. Morrissey, 597 F.2d 1131, 1135-36 (8th Cir. 1979) (third-party complaint gave adequate notice that contractual relationship of some kind existed, and district court eventually found a joint venture; fact that complaint did not specifically plead a joint venture did not make the pleading inadequate or undermine the judgment), and Federal Enters., Inc. v. Greyhound Leasing & Fin. Corp., 849 F.2d 1059, 1062-63 n.5 (8th Cir. 1988) (plaintiff objected to instruction relating to ratification contending that defense had not sufficiently pleaded; citing Rule 8, appellate court rejected challenge and concluded district court “did not err” in letting decide whether ratification had occurred).

The seminal authority on Rule 8 comes from Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), abrogated on other grounds Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).  Conley states:

[T]the Federal Rules … do not require a […]


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