In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). On May 21, the Supreme Court decided that “this famous observation has earned its retirement.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 2007 U.S. Lexis 5901 (May 21, 2007). In the process, the court revolutionized pleading rules, introducing twin requirements of fact-based pleading and plausibility.

Bell Atlantic was a complicated antitrust conspiracy action, but the Supreme Court used sweeping language to impose a duty to plead facts pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2) — a duty that it did not confine to the antitrust field. It held that “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do … . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level … on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”