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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will discuss motions to dismiss in Iowa and the specifics surrounding the process and the other Motions that come into play when a motion to dismiss is brought forward. 

A lawsuit is initiated in Iowa by the Plaintiff filing an official complaint, which is a set of facts sufficient to bring forth legal action in order to obtain property, money, or enforcement of a right against another party, this is also known as a Cause of Action and refers to the reason the suit is being brought forward (IE battery, breach of contract, etc, etc.) The complaint basically puts in writing the allegations in the case that entitles the plaintiff to a claim against the defendant. 

What Happens When the Complaint is Filed?

Once a complaint is filed the defendant can file an Answer, which is the official response denying or admitting to the allegations put forth by the plaintiff. The Answer also raises any affirmative defenses that would go against and defeat the allegations. Alternatively, the motion to dismiss can be filed by the defendant. The motion to dismiss suggests that there is a defect in the Complaint or some other affirmative matter, requiring the court to consider dismissing the case.

When should a Motion to Dismiss be filed?

As stated above, typically a motion to dismiss is filed at the beginning of a case, right after the Complaint is presented. Generally, there is no specific deadline for filing the motion to dismiss, but as in most cases local jurisdiction and the timing of filing the initial Complaint affect the deadline for filing. To be safe, a motion to dismiss to be filed within a reasonable amount of time after the grounds for supporting the motion becomes apparent. It is important to note that this time-frame and filing a motion to dismiss in general should exclude instances in which the court lacks jurisdiction or authority over the case. Here, filing a motion to dismiss should be used sparingly. 

When is Filing a Motion to Dismiss Appropriate?

There are a number of reasons that the defendant might file a motion to dismiss, all of which can be separated into two categories: 1) Motion to dismiss based on some failure in the argument presented in the claim and 2) Motion to dismiss based on specific defects or defenses in the complaint. Below we will discuss examples from both categories.

Improper Allegations or a Defect on the Face of a Complaint

In this situation, we are looking at a motion to dismiss when the complaint fails to put forth allegations that present a legitimate cause of action. For example, in a civil assault case for proper cause of action to be established, there must be an intentional act directed towards the plaintiff that causes reasonable apprehension of imminent contact with the plaintiff. If in this case, the plaintiff fails to allege the offensive action was intentional, the plaintiff has failed to put forward facts supporting the legal cause of action for assault. Here a motion to dismiss would be appropriate. When considering a motion to dismiss the court will evaluate the complaint and review the allegations generally in support of the plaintiff. This evaluation is not making any hard decisions on the truth of the factual evidence put forth in the plaintiff claim but instead is concerned with determining whether the plaintiff would be entitled to relief if all of the plaintiff’s allegations are assumed to be true.

Another reason a motion of dismissal might be considered is if a Complaint fails to allege facts, and instead only puts forth mere conclusions. Going back to the assault example, if the plaintiff claims the defendant made an intentional act which caused apprehension of future offensive contact, without actually stating the facts of the act then the claim may be dismissed.

Other reasons providing a basis for motion to dismiss include:

  • The improper serving of court papers
  • The assigned court does not have proper jurisdiction over the case
  • The original Complaint was submitted to the court after the filing deadline
  • Either party does not have the legal capacity to be sued or there is a pending lawsuit between the two parties based on the same cause of action
  • Statute of limitation has passed
  • The claim in question was previously resolved through bankruptcy
  • The Complaint is unenforceable due to defendants age or disability

What Happens Once a Motion to Dismiss is filed?

If the defendant files a Motion to Dismiss the plaintiff’s attorney will review the motion and decide if it has merit. If the plaintiff’s attorney feels the motion is appropriate then he or she will usually not contest the motion, but rather will file an Amended Complaint in order to correct the defects presented in the Motion to Dismiss.

If the plaintiff’s attorney decides to dispute the merit of the Motion to Dismiss, then the motion will be reviewed by both sides and an oral argument will be held in court. When the original motion is filed it will contain a memorandum making the argument as to why the dismissal should be granted. The plaintiff’s attorney will file his or her counter-argument, known as a Response Brief. This will be followed by a Reply Brief from the defendant’s attorney, which will address the argument put forth in the Response Brief. Once all Briefs are presented a hearing is held before the judge, during which the attorneys will answer any questions presented by the judge. 

If the plaintiff’s party successfully defends the Motion to Dismiss then the defendant will be required to file an Answer to the Complaint. The written discovery process follows the resolution of the Motion to Dismiss if the case moves forward.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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