Amending a Lawsuit Complaint in Arizona
A lawsuit’s complaint can be amended even after trial has concluded
When a Plaintiff files a lawsuit (a Complaint), he or she often has imperfect information. For example, he or she may have the wrong corporate entity, or perhaps the Defendant’s name is incorrect in the police report. Sometimes a Defendant will respond to a Complaint alleging that a third person or entity is also at fault, in which case that third person or entity will also have to be named as a defendant. Fortunately, Arizona’s Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 15) allow for the filing of Amended Complaints.
Amending as a Matter of Course
A complaint can be amended as a matter of course to fix any errors, or to add any parties up to 21 days after the Defendant files the Answer to the initial Complaint. This means that it can be done without filing a Motion to get the Court’s permission if done within 21 days of the responsive Answer. For example, if I sue Joe Smith following a car accident and serve him with the Complaint, his Answer, also filed with the Court, may state that it was actually Joan Smith that was driving the car at the time of the crash. I will then have 21 days to file an Amended Complaint that adds Joan as a Defendant.
Amending by Leave of the Court
However, a Plaintiff can file an amended complaint at any point in a case, even after the trial has concluded. If a Plaintiff wishes to amend a Complaint after the 21 day as a matter of course period, she must either a) get the defendant to agree to the amendment, or b) file a motion with the Court to get permission. In Arizona, courts are instructed to freely grant these requests where justice requires. Unless the Amendment will unduly prejudice the defendant, a Court should grant permission to amend. Spitz v Bache & Co., Inc. 596 P.2d 365, 366, 122 Ariz. 530, 531 (Ariz. 1979).
Ideally, as is typically the case, a Complaint will not have to be amended. However, lawsuits are constantly evolving creatures. Once the parties start sharing evidence and witnesses submit to depositions, new information may come to light that necessitates an amendment of the Complaint, so that the parties can properly present the case to the Jury. Thankfully, Arizona’s generosity in granting Amendments allows Plaintiffs to confidently file suit, even if the information they have at the time is imperfect.