Civil RICO cases are a very special kind of civil lawsuit. More than a lot of other kinds of civil lawsuits (like, say, an auto accident case,) RICO cases involve numerous technical statutory pleading requirements, any one of which can be fatal to the plaintiffs’ case if not met to the precision required by the law and the rules of procedure. That’s why, whether you’re the plaintiff or the defendant in a civil RICO case, it is so important to have an experienced Atlanta civil RICO attorney handling your case. Whether it is recognizing (and fixing) the imperfections in your case, or identifying (and exploiting) the potentially fatal holes in your opponent’s case, the right legal counsel can help you achieve the outcome you need.
In a lot of cases, the outcome turns upon factual things. (“Did XYZ Corporation have discriminatory motives for engaging an adverse employment action against its employee, John Doe?” or “Did Jane Roe suffer injuries because James Poe negligently failed to yield the right of way?”)
RICO cases aren’t always like that. A lot of them get resolved because the plaintiff did something wrong in the pleading stage, and that error triggers a dismissal of the case, as was the case in one dispute recently addressed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case involved a yacht builder’s claim against a buyer and the bank that financed the purchase, alleging that the buyer and the bank engaged in bid-rigging and money laundering as part of the transaction process. None of those facts were especially critical to the outcome of the case, however.
Instead, flaws in the builder’s complaint document were what sunk the case.
The Civil Litigation ‘Sin’ of ‘Shotgun Pleading’
Rule 8(a)(2) of the federal rules requires a plaintiff to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This rule is the basis for the courts’ ban on engaging in what is called “shotgun pleading.”
There are four different categories of shotgun pleadings. According to the 11th Circuit, the most common “shotgun pleading” mistake plaintiffs make, by far, is asserting “multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint.”
Shotgun pleadings of all types are barred by the rules because, as the appeals court explained, they all have one critical thing in common: “they fail to one degree or another, and in one way or another, to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.”
In the yacht case, the builder’s complaint committed multiple of these “sins.” The complaint was guilty of the most common shotgun pleading type (mentioned above.) It also, however, did something less common but arguably more damaging to the builder’s hopes of maintaining its case. The document committed “the ‘relatively rare sin’ of bringing ‘multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions.’” Recognizing that adequate notice is a vital ingredient within the essential element of fairness undergirding all civil cases, having a lawsuit that does not clearly spell out who is liable for which transgressions is an enormous problem and one that led to the dismissal of this builder’s lawsuit.
The right civil RICO lawyer can help you in innumerable ways. One of the biggest – and one that occurs with substantial frequency – happens when someone brings a bogus civil RICO complaint (or, at least, a flawed RICO claim) against you and/or your business. A skilled legal team can spot those deficiencies and then potentially use them to get the case tossed before it ever even makes it to trial. Rely on the knowledgeable Atlanta civil RICO attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC, backed by our extensive RICO experience, to provide you with the knowledgeable advice and powerful advocacy you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation.
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