Hamilton v. Gregory Palm, 09-3676.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation621 F.3d 816
Docket NumberNo. 09-3676.,09-3676.
PartiesJoseph HAMILTON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Gregory PALM; Toni Palm, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date20 September 2010

621 F.3d 816

Joseph HAMILTON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Gregory PALM; Toni Palm, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 09-3676.

United States Court of Appeals,Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: May 18, 2010.
Filed: Sept. 20, 2010.

621 F.3d 817

Robert G. Kister, I, argued, Herculaneum, MO, for appellant.

Ann E. Buckley, argued, St. Louis, MO, Martin John Buckley, on the brief, St. Louis, MO, for appellees.

Before LOKEN, BYE, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Joseph Hamilton filed this diversity negligence action, alleging that he fell and was seriously injured doing roofing work and constructing an addition on property owned by Gregory and Toni Palm in Chesterfield, Missouri. The Palms moved to dismiss, arguing that Hamilton may not recover on his claim as an independent contractor based on the inherently-dangerous-activity theory of landowner liability. Hamilton responded that he was not suing as an independent contractor; the complaint alleged he was “employed” by the Palms and set forth facts showing he was entitled to recover for his employers' failure to provide a safe workplace. The Palms replied that Hamilton did not adequately plead a master-servant relationship necessary to establish employer liability. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint because Hamilton “merely alleges generally that he was Defendants' employee and has not alleged facts to plausibly support such a conclusion.” Concluding this was an unwarranted extension of the pleading standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), we reverse.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Twombly and Iqbal did not abrogate the notice pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2). Rather, those decisions confirmed that Rule 8(a)(2) is satisfied “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). However, “to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A pleading that merely pleads “labels and conclusions,” or a “formulaic recitation” of the elements of a cause of action, or “naked assertions” devoid

621 F.3d 818

of factual enhancement will not suffice. Id., quoting Twombly. Determining whether a claim is plausible is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 1950.

Under Missouri law, to establish a common law claim of employer liability, Hamilton must prove that the Palms negligently breached the employer's duty to maintain a safe workplace, and that this negligence was the direct and proximate cause of Hamilton's injuries. Hannah v. Mallinckrodt, Inc., 633 S.W.2d 723, 724 (Mo. banc 1982). The only element of this claim here at issue is whether Hamilton's complaint sufficiently alleged that the Palms were his employers. Thus, we must consider how the general principles of Twombly and Iqbal apply to the pleading of a recurring common law issue-whether a party was an employee or an independent contractor at the time in question.

We conclude that, to answer...

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