García-Catalán v. United States, No. 12–1907.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSELYA
Citation734 F.3d 100
PartiesItzel GARCÍA–CATALÁN, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant, Appellee.
Decision Date04 November 2013
Docket NumberNo. 12–1907.

734 F.3d 100

Itzel GARCÍA–CATALÁN, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 12–1907.

United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.

Nov. 4, 2013.


[734 F.3d 101]


Rubén T. Nigaglioni and Nigaglioni Law Offices P.S.C. on brief for appellant.

Rosa Emilia Rodríguez–Vélez, United States Attorney, Nelson Pérez–Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Juan Carlos Reyes–Ramos, Assistant United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.


Before TORRUELLA, SELYA and HOWARD, Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

In a pair of watershed cases—Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)—the Supreme Court retreated from the historic pleading standard that it had previously established in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45–48, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), and replaced that standard with a standard centered on plausibility. This plausibility standard has become the “new normal” in federal civil practice. A.G. v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 78–79, 2013 WL 5630077, at *1 (1st Cir.2013).

The district courts, through no fault of their own, have struggled with the implementation of the new standard. As with many changes in preexisting practice, the devil is in the details.

This case illustrates the point. In it, the district court, in a well-intentioned effort to walk the new line, applied the plausibility standard too mechanically. As a result, it improvidently dismissed the plaintiff's complaint. We reverse.

In her complaint, plaintiff-appellant Itzel García–Catalán alleges that on June 24, 2009 she visited the commissary at Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. While

[734 F.3d 102]

strolling through one of the aisles, she “slipped and fell on liquid then existing there,” sustaining serious injuries. No sign warned that the floor was wet.

The appellant duly filed an administrative claim with the United States. After the statutory period for disposition of her claim expired without a decision, see28 U.S.C. § 2675(a), the appellant repaired to the federal district court and sued the United States for the negligence of its employees at the commissary. She premised her action on the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671–2680.

“The FTCA is a limited waiver of the federal government's sovereign immunity” with respect to tortious conduct of federal employees. Shansky v. United States, 164 F.3d 688, 690 (1st Cir.1999). “The ‘law of the place’ [where the alleged tort occurred] provides the substantive rules to be used in deciding FTCA actions.” Bolduc v. United States, 402 F.3d 50, 56 (1st Cir.2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1)). Here, the substantive law of Puerto Rico controls.

In due course, the government moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.1Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under Puerto Rico law, a business invitee must prove that the owner or occupier of premises had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition in order to recover for injuries caused by that condition. See Nieves–Romero v. United States, 715 F.3d 375, 379 (1st Cir.2013) (construing Puerto Rico law); Mas v. United States, 984 F.2d 527, 530 (1st Cir.1993) (same). Here, the government argued that the appellant had failed to allege that federal employees had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that allegedly existed at the commissary.

The district court referred the motion to a magistrate judge. SeeFed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The magistrate judge recommended that the motion be denied. The government did not object to this recommendation.

Some three months later, the district court revisited the magistrate judge's recommendation on its own initiative. The court disagreed with the recommendation, granted the motion, and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. See García–Catalán v. United States, No. 11–1192, 2012 WL 639250, at *8 (D.P.R. Feb. 8, 2012). Following the district court's rejection of her motion for reconsideration, the appellant prosecuted this timely appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim. See Santiago v. Puerto Rico, 655 F.3d 61, 72 (1st Cir.2011); SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 441 (1st Cir.2010) (en banc). “In conducting this review, we accept the truth of all well-pleaded facts and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the pleader's favor.” Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth., 682 F.3d 40, 44 (1st Cir.2012).

To avoid dismissal, a complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). At the pleading stage, the plaintiff need not demonstrate that she is likely to prevail, but her claim must suggest “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant

[734 F.3d 103]

has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. In fine, the claim must be “plausible on its face.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

The plausibility inquiry necessitates a two-step pavane. See Rodríguez–Reyes v. Molina–Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir.2013). First, the court must distinguish “the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Morales–Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir.2012). Second, the court must determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support “the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir.2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In determining whether a complaint crosses the plausibility threshold, “the reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556...

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485 practice notes
  • Ortiz v. De San Juan, CIVIL NO. 19-1671 (DRD)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • March 29, 2021
    ...First Circuit outlined two considerations for district courts to note when analyzing a motion to dismiss. García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir. 2013). First, aPage 8 complaint modeled on Form 11 of the Appendix of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which contains su......
  • Puma Energy Caribe LLC v. P.R., CIVIL 20-1591 (DRD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • September 22, 2021
    ...Circuit outlined two considerations for district courts to note when analyzing a motion to dismiss. See Garcia-Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir. 2013). First, a complaint modeled on Form 11 of the Appendix of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which contains sufficient......
  • Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters LLC v. Pan Am. Grain Mfg. Co., Civil No. 3:15-CV-02099 (JAF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 11, 2015
    ...not demonstrate that [it] is likely to prevail' on its claim." Id. (alteration in original) (quoting García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 102 (1st Cir. 2013)). "Rather, the complaint need include only enough factual detail to make the asserted claim 'plausible on its face.'" Id. (......
  • Begay v. United States, No. CIV 15-0358 JB/SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 18, 2016
    ...Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit , 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993).Garcia–Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir.2013).48 As stated above, the caption of the United States' Motion states that it is a "Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
475 cases
  • Ortiz v. De San Juan, CIVIL NO. 19-1671 (DRD)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • March 29, 2021
    ...First Circuit outlined two considerations for district courts to note when analyzing a motion to dismiss. García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir. 2013). First, aPage 8 complaint modeled on Form 11 of the Appendix of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which contains su......
  • Puma Energy Caribe LLC v. P.R., CIVIL 20-1591 (DRD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • September 22, 2021
    ...Circuit outlined two considerations for district courts to note when analyzing a motion to dismiss. See Garcia-Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir. 2013). First, a complaint modeled on Form 11 of the Appendix of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which contains sufficient......
  • Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters LLC v. Pan Am. Grain Mfg. Co., Civil No. 3:15-CV-02099 (JAF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 11, 2015
    ...not demonstrate that [it] is likely to prevail' on its claim." Id. (alteration in original) (quoting García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 102 (1st Cir. 2013)). "Rather, the complaint need include only enough factual detail to make the asserted claim 'plausible on its face.'" Id. (......
  • Begay v. United States, No. CIV 15-0358 JB/SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 18, 2016
    ...Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit , 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993).Garcia–Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir.2013).48 As stated above, the caption of the United States' Motion states that it is a "Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 firm's commentaries
  • D. Mass. Patent Litigation Update: February 2022
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • March 11, 2022
    ...claim. On a motion to dismiss, courts conduct a two-step, context-specific inquiry, consistent with Garcia-Catal'n v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013), namely, (1) accepting factual allegations as true, and (2) determining whether the factual allegations present a 'reasonabl......
  • D. Mass. Patent Litigation Update: February 2022
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • March 11, 2022
    ...claim. On a motion to dismiss, courts conduct a two-step, context-specific inquiry, consistent with Garcia-Catal'n v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013), namely, (1) accepting factual allegations as true, and (2) determining whether the factual allegations present a 'reasonabl......

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