Where does pleading doctrine, at the federal level, stand today? The Supreme Court’s revision of general pleading standards in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly has not left courts and litigants with a clear or precise understanding of what it takes to state a claim that can survive a motion to dismiss. Claimants are required to show “plausible entitlement to relief” by offering enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Translating those admonitions into predictable and consistent guidelines has proven illusory. This Article proposes a descriptive theory that explains the fundaments of contemporary pleading doctrine in a way that gives it some of the clarity and precision it otherwise lacks.
The onset of the current economic crisis has led many strategic and financial acquirers to reconsider the desirability of transactions to which they had previously agreed. Because many of these agreements contain substantial termination fees, buyers have increasingly sought to be excused from their contractual obligations by invoking Material Adverse Effect (“MAE”) provisions. Reliance on MAE clauses as a basis for termination has historically been risky due to a lack of clarity in the case law regarding the standard for excuse under such provisions. A recent decision by the Delaware Chancery Court, Hexion v. Huntsman, the third in a series of prominent cases addressing the interpretation of MAE provisions, confirms that the standard is extremely high under Delaware law. However, because each of these cases found that no MAE had occurred, it remains unclear what circumstances, if any, will be sufficient to trigger judicial recognition of an MAE in Delaware.