8th Circuit Adopts Prevailing Standard as to Allegations Pled on “Information and Belief”

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A case of first impression for the 8th circuit, in Ahern Rentals Inc. v. EquipmentShare.com Inc. et al., 22-1399.– (February 7, 2023) –  prevailing the standard of today and held that allegations pled on information and belief are not categorically insufficient to state a claim for relief where the proof supporting the allegation is within the sole possession and control of the defendant or where the belief is based on sufficient factual material that makes the inference of culpability plausible.

Ahern Rentals initially filed suit in the Eastern District of Missouri alleging that EquiptmentShare.com and EZ Equipment Zone had engaged in a conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets from Ahern to gain an unfair competitive advantage. The suit was transferred to the Western District of Missouri, where a series of separate suits Ahern brought against EquipmentShare and several former employees have been consolidated into multi-district litigation.

The District Court ruled that the allegations of EZ’s actions were based merely upon “information and belief.” In dismissing EZ from the suit, the district court held that it was not sufficient to demonstrate that the claims were plausible rather than just conceivable.

Pleading on information and belief is codified by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(3) “[A]n attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances…the factual contentions have evidentiary support…” However, the 8th Circuit had never fully articulated when plaintiffs may use “information-and-belief” pleadings in a complaint to satisfy Twombly’s pleading requirement.

For more information, please contact Attorney Jennifer Dancy at jdancy@tresslerllp.com.

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