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15 Million Civil Lawsuits Are Filed Each Year in the United States | More insight into amendments
The following article was written by Callagy Law’s Legal Team, and will focus on many common questions and concerns surrounding new developments, legal matters, and other procedures within business and commercial litigation. Our mission is to answer any questions and give knowledge to many different aspects of these matters.
According to the latest polls, 15 million civil lawsuits are filed each year. That is one lawsuit for every twelve adults in America and one filing every two seconds. One overarching flaw that a majority of these complaints and their corresponding answers have in common is that they fail to name all the proper parties or assert all the proper claims or defenses. The mechanism to fixing these mistakes is called an amendment.
In the trial level Court of New Jersey, called the Superior Court, one of the rules governing amendments is 4:9-1. Specifically this rule allows a party to amend their pleading once at any time before the opposing party responds. After a party a responds, there are then only two avenues to amend: one is by consent of the other party and the other is by leave of court which “shall be freely given in the interest of justice”
The phrase “in the interest of justice” is quite broad and may leave many readers wondering what courts will look to decide if an amendment fits into this phrase. While there a handful of factors that a court analyzes in reaching this conclusion, the overwhelming consideration is the prejudice that will be suffered by the other party if the amendment is granted.
In Keller v. Pastuch, the Plaintiff, who were husband and wife, brought suit against an automobile driver after the car the wife was riding in was struck by the Defendant. 94 N.J. Super. 499, 501 (App. Div. 1967). On the opening day of trial the defendant sought leave of court to amend his answer to include a new defense. Id. Subsequently, the court granted a mistrial and heard, later on that same day, oral arguments on whether the amendment should be granted. Id.
The plaintiffs argued that they would be substantially prejudiced due to the lateness of the defendant’s proposed amendment. Id. In response, the defendant argued that he did not know this defense was available to him until a recently conducted interview. Id. at 503. The court sided with the plaintiff and held that the defendant could have asserted the defense earlier, which in turn would have allowed the plaintiff’s to preserve their rights.
By contrast, in Sheppard v. Braun the court granted plaintiff’s motion to amend to add two new parties. No. ATL-L-1900-05, 2005 WL 2560782, at *1 (N.J. Super. Ct. Oct. 7, 2005). The plaintiff, a car accident victim, sought to add the Borgata Hotel after he recently learned that the hotel may have been serving alcoholic beverages that contributed to the accident. Id. The court summarily granted the motion, due to the fact that it was unopposed and no trial or arbitration date had been set. Id.
Thus, as a litigant it is important to act swiftly when amending a pleading, so as to ensure that the opposing party is not prejudiced and thereby causing the court to deny the amendment.
Sean Callagy, the owner and President of Callagy Law is an attorney, business coach, public speaker, and entrepreneur; and is dedicated to the personal and business growth. Please reach out to us here with any questions or comments regarding personal or business matters. We will to continue to provide daily updates with helpful information on our website and social media. Please feel free to contact Callagy Law at anytime. Feel free to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn! Additionally you can subscribe to our daily videos on YouTube by clicking here.
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