March 24, 2020
The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that a § 1981 claim requires the plaintiff to plausibly allege that race was the but-for cause of the alleged injury. Because the statutory text, history, and early precedent confirm § 1981 follows the general tort rule of but-for causation, the Court rejected plaintiff’s contention that it could survive a motion to dismiss by alleging facts showing race was only a “motivating factor” in defendant’s decision. The Court explained that while a plaintiff may be required to make an increasingly greater showing as the litigation progresses, the elements of the claim—including the causation standard—remain constant over the life of the lawsuit. Consequently, what the plaintiff must plausibly allege at the outset of the lawsuit depends on what the plaintiff must prove by the end of trial.