The IT Law Wiki


U.S. federal courts[]

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. A defendant may move to dismiss a cause of action if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly[1] that a claim survives dismissal only when the claimant alleges underlying facts that provide "plausible grounds" for relief and "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." In Twombly, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected the federal pleading standard granting dismissal only if "plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief."[2] The Court subsequently held that the heightened standard articulated in Twombly applies to all civil cases, not merely "complex" cases.[3]

To survive the motion, a complaint must allege "all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory."[4] Detailed and "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."[5]

In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must be mindful that the Federal Rules require only that the complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."[6] The court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint, which are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[7] However, the court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences."[8]

To further the inquiry, courts may consider documents outside the pleadings without the proceeding turning into summary judgment.[9] However, the court may only consider these documents if their authenticity is not questioned and the complaint either refers to them or necessarily relies upon them.[10]

Statute of limitations[]

A claim that has been presented after the statute of limitations has expired is also subject to dismissal. If granted, the claim is dismissed without any evidence being presented by the other side. A motion to dismiss has taken the place of the common law demurrer in most modern civil practice.


  1. 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (full-text).
  2. Id. at 561-63 (citations omitted).
  3. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009) (full-text).
  4. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984) (full-text)).
  5. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (full-text) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
  6. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
  7. Mertik v. Blalock, 983 F.2d 1353, 1355 (6th Cir. 1993) (full-text).
  8. Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (full-text) (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000) (full-text)).
  9. See Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994) (full-text), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002) (full-text).
  10. See id.; see also Parrino v. FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 706 (9th Cir. 1998) (full-text), superseded by statute on other grounds.