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Judge kicks out state slip-and-fall claim on ‘Twiqbal’ motion

A bare bones slip-and-fall complaint filed in Amherst County Circuit Court has run afoul of stringent new federal pleading standards following removal of the case to U.S. district court.

U.S. District Judge Norman Moon yesterday cited the new federal pleading standards in dismissing Holly Branham’s one-page complaint for failing to describe precisely how store employees were negligent in regards to her 2007 accident at a Dollar General store.

The defendant’s motion to dismiss was  based on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, known as Twombly and Iqbal , that impose a heightened pleading standard in federal civil cases.  Moon looked to Virginia law, applied through Twombly , to reject the lawsuit as lacking in particulars.

The complaint stated the store’s employees “negligently failed to remove the liquid from the floor and had negligently failed to place warning signs to alert and warn the Plaintiff of the wet floor.”

Those allegations leave too much to speculation, Moon said.  “[T]he Plaintiff’s conclusory allegations that the Defendant was negligent because there was liquid on the floor, but that the Defendant failed to remove the liquid or warn her of its presence are insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief,” the judge wrote.

The dismissal was without prejudice: Moon allowed 15 days for the plaintiff to file an amended complaint to flesh out her claim.

Branham is represented by Robert S. Ganey of Hanover.  Defendant Dolgencorp, Inc., is represented by James Muncie Jr. of Richmond.

By Peter Vieth

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