The Colorado Supreme Court has announced a significant change to pleading requirements in Colorado that will make Motions to Dismiss more likely to succeed. Previously, a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a viable claim could only be granted if a plaintiff could prove “no set of facts” that would support the claim. Under this standard, Motions to Dismiss were rarely granted. However, in Warne v. Hall, 2016 CO 50 (decided June 27, 2016), a contract dispute, the Court adopted the federal standard for evaluation of pleadings when a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim is filed, which is based on plausibility of the claims—to survive a Motion to Dismiss, a Complaint must state “plausible” claims for relief. In determining whether claims are plausible, conclusory assertions are to be disregarded, and the remaining assertions must “raise a right to relief ‘above the speculative level.’” Warne at p. 9.
The Court explained that the change in evaluation of pleadings in Colorado is necessary because of a longstanding preference to be guided by the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal rules. The Court also explained that the “plausibility standard” will be more effective in “weeding out groundless complaints,” and is therefore compatible with the recent movement to control litigation costs. Id. at p. 19. Although it remains to be seen if Colorado judges will use the new standard to dismiss more claims at the onset of a case, the Warne opinion makes it more likely that challenges to speculative claims will succeed.