Submitted October 23, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 15-CV-533-JPS - J.P.
Easterbrook, Kanne, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Easterbrook, Circuit Judge.
Edwards owns a taxi-cab in Milwaukee. Yellow Cab Cooperative
refers business to his cab; other arrangements between
Edwards and Yellow Cab are not in the record. Edwards leased
the cab to Parashu Giri, who subleased some of the time to
Thomas Chapman. Apparently Giri and Chapman shared the cab so
that it could be in service much of the day. Chapman received
fares and tips from passengers, paid rent to Giri, and kept
the difference; he did not pay anything to Yellow Cab or
receive anything from it.
contends in this suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act that
this arrangement makes him an "employee" of Yellow
Cab. He alleges that, after he complained about not receiving
the minimum wage, Ali Mohamed, the President of Yellow Cab,
told Giri that Chapman was "fired" (in other words,
would not be dispatched to passengers who called Yellow Cab
seeking a ride). Giri then terminated the sublease. Chapman
submits that Mohamed's action violates the Act's
antiretaliation clause, 29 U.S.C. §215(a)(3).
Judge Randa dismissed all of Chapman's other theories and
directed him to file a new complaint. 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis
23166 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 24, 2016). The amended complaint was
assigned to Judge Stadtmueller, who concluded that Chapman
"must provide more detailed and thorough allegations
before the claim can be permitted to proceed." 2016 U.S.
Dist. Lexis 163586 at *8 (E.D. Wis. Nov. 28, 2016). The judge
stated that the complaint had not discussed all of the
"factors" identified in Secretary of Labor v.
Lauritzen, 835 F.2d 1529, 1534 (7th Cir. 1987), as
potentially relevant to the distinction between an employee
and an independent contractor. Because "Chapman's
allegations, even construed liberally, do not address these
factors" (2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 163586 at
""12), the judge ordered Chapman to file yet
another complaint. The final version was filed and dismissed
with prejudice. 2017 U.S. Dist. Lexis 49309 (E.D. Wis. Mar.
31, 2017). The judge stated that Chapman still had not
addressed all of the factors mentioned in Lauritzen
and by the Supreme Court in decisions such as Bartels v.
Birmingham, 332 U.S. 126, 130 (1947).
extent the district court demanded that complaints plead
facts-not only facts that bear on the statutory elements of a
claim, but also facts that bear on judicially established
standards-it was mistaken. Ever since their adoption in 1938,
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have required plaintiffs
to plead claims rather than facts corresponding to
the elements of a legal theory. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Old
code-pleading and fact-pleading systems were abandoned. See
Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073
(7th Cir. 1992). Because complaints need not identify the
applicable law, see Johnson v. Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346
(2014); Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 530
(2011), it is manifestly inappropriate for a district court
to demand that complaints contain all legal elements (or
factors) plus facts corresponding to each.
enough to plead a plausible claim, after which "a
plaintiff 'receives the benefit of imagination, so long
as the hypotheses are consistent with the
complaint'". Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007) (citation omitted). A
full description of the facts that will prove the
plaintiff's claim comes later, at the summary-judgment
stage or in the pretrial order. So both the Supreme Court and
this court have held when rejecting contentions that Rule 8
as understood in Twombly requires fact pleading. See
Erickson v. Par-dus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Swanson
v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400 (7th Cir. 2010). See
also, e.g., Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S.
506, 510-11 (2002) (Rule 8 does not call for the pleading of
all facts required to prevail). Twombly cited
Swierkiewicz with approval, see 550 U.S. at 555-56,
563, 569-70. So did Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 347, and
Skinner, 562 U.S. at 530.
the district court meant to do no more than rely on the
plausibility standard of Twombly and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Chapman's claim seems
implausible because it does not allege any direct dealings
between himself and Yellow Cab. Instead it alleges that
Edwards owns the taxi, that Edwards leases the taxi to Giri,
and that Giri subleased it to Chapman. Many decisions, of
which Callahan v. Chicago, 813 F.3d 658 (7th Cir.
2016), is an example, hold that one does not become an
"employee" of an entity several steps removed in a
chain of business relations just because that entity's
decisions may have some effect on income.
Chapman's claim as presented does not seem plausible, the
district court did not reject it on that ground - and a
desire for plausibility would not be enough to require a
complaint to contain facts matching all statutory
"elements" and judicial "factors, " for
Twombly and its successors disparage such demands.
Perhaps, however, we should understand the district
court's order as one under Rule 12(e):
A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading
to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so
vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
response. The motion must be made before filing a responsive
pleading and must point out the defects complained of and the
details desired. If the court orders a more definite
statement and the order is not obeyed within 14 days after
notice of the order or within the time the court sets, the
court may strike the pleading or issue any other appropriate
Rule 12(e), rather than a judicial demand for fact pleading,
is the right way to ask plaintiffs to lay out details that
enable the defendants to respond intelligently and the court
to handle the litigation effectively. See Airborne
Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499
F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2007). Giv- ing the district court
the benefit of the doubt, we treat its order as one under
Chapman had responded to that order with additional details,
and the district court still had dismissed the complaint for
failure to plead facts matching "elements" or
"factors, " we would be obliged to reverse. Rule
12(e) cannot be used to turn federal civil procedure into a
fact-pleading or code-pleading system. But Chapman did not
respond with a plausible claim. He not only failed to provide
additional details but also insisted that, because Yellow Cab
affected or controlled his driving through the chain of
leases starting with Edwards, then Yellow Cab must be his
employer. That approach, equating regulatory authority with
employment, was rejected in Callahan. By disobeying
the district court's order, while adding a legal theory,
Chapman made his claim less plausible. Rule 12(e)
authorizes the district court to enter any "appropriate