Updating the Appendix of Forms to the Federal Rules: Why Not Provide Official Examples of What Is Sufficient
Until 2014, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure included an Appendix of Forms. In 2015, however, the Supreme Court abrogated the Appendix. It would be better if the Court were to promulgate an updated Appendix. A set of officially approved Forms would save judicial and attorney resources, introduce beginning lawyers to proper pleading, discourage the tactic of using motions to dismiss for delay and harassment, and reintroduce numerous documents other than complaints and answers that are not obsolete. The principal reason for abolition of the Forms, presumably, was that they did not comply with the Supreme Court's decisions in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. These decisions required a complaint to contain factual information making the inference of a claim plausible; conclusions were insufficient. The Appendix, however, was written under an earlier regime that required only a loose kind of notice pleading. The leading Supreme Court decision of that bygone era pronounced that a complaint was sufficient unless it showed beyond doubt that the plaintiff could not recover. This Article features an analysis and revision of Original Form 11, which stated a prototypical negligence claim. This complaint did not meet the standards set by Twombly and Iqbal because it contained only a broad conclusion that the defendant "negligently drove a motor vehicle against the plaintiff." No factual allegations accompanied this statement to make the claim plausible. The Revised Form 11 offered here contains hypothetical allegations that could supply what Twombly and Iqbal require. It also reflects additions to improve the statements of special damages and to address certain strategic matters. Commentary is included to explain each added item. Then, using Revised Form 11 as background, this Article proceeds to analyze and offer revisions of other complaints and answers contained in the Appendix. A final section expresses the author's conclusions, which include observations that that this new set of forms reflects many judgment calls that could be made differently, but that revision should not be unduly difficult, and that it would have a number of important benefits.