Legal Memorandum: Standards for Granting a Motion to Dismiss

Issue: When should the court grant a motion to dismiss?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Motion to dismiss; Summary judgment
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 85 F.3d 1098; 800 F. Supp. 1210; 477 U.S. 317; 705 F. Supp. 262
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)
Date: 08/01/2006

It is well settled that the court may grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts to support his or her claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief.  McCoy v. Hess Oil V.I. Corp., 42 V.I. 271, 273 (D.V.I. 1999); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).  A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) must be filed before the defendant files the answer.  SC Holdings, Inc. v. A.A.A. Realty Co., 935 F. Supp. 1354, 1358 n.2 (D.N.J. 1996).

In the Virgin Islands, when a defendant files a motion to dismiss after it filed the answer, and when one or both of the parties asks the court to look beyond the complaint in ruling on the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the court must treat the motion as one for summary judgment.  Harris v. V.I. Hous. Auth., 27 V.I. 61, 64-65 (Terr. Ct. 1992).  In such a case, the defendant’s burden is that set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e), not that of Rule 12(b)(6).  Harris, 27 V.I. at 65.  In such a case, the defendant must make a showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Id. 

Summary judgment may only be granted “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together […]

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