The Kentucky Court Recognizes Limit on Trial Judge’s Discretion in denying Leave to Amend Pleadings.
By Judge Stan Billingsley (Ret.)
We believe every lawyer should be aware that a Trial Judge’s discretion may have limits. It is possible that you may have an issue in the future since CR 15.01 has the potential for broad application. The Trial Judge does not have absolute discretion to deny a motion to amend the pleadings.
CR 15.01 for example that while the court has discretion to grant leave to file an amendment to the pleadings, the Supreme Court has said, that leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires.”
See Mosley v. Mosley (Ky. App., 2010) NO. 2009-CA-000177-MR
” The amendment of pleadings in civil cases, including an action for dissolution of marriage, is governed by CR 15.01.
We emphasize that although it is often recited that the granting of relief is within the trial court’s discretion, the rule states that leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” CR 15.01.
Thus, the discretion afforded the trial court cannot be exercised so as to deprive litigants of a just result.
To further the purpose of providing a just result to our litigants, Kentucky has adopted the view that the rule should be liberally construed. In Stout v. City of Martin, 395 S.W.2d 591 (Ky. 1965), the Court summarized the prevailing view when considering a motion to amend a pleading when it stated:
Under liberal modern practice a change in the theory on which relief is demanded is not an obstacle to amendment, nor is the assertion of a new claim that could have been joined in the first instance with the claim stated in the complaint, per CR 18.01. See Clay, Kentucky Practice, CR 15.01, Note 4; Dombrovskis v. Murff, 24 F.R.D. 302 (S.D.N.Y.1959).
’If no problem of relation back is involved, the question for the court is not whether a new and independent claim or ’cause of action’ is pleaded by amendment but whether the just and expeditious disposition of the controversy between the parties will be advanced by permitting the amendment.’ Barron & Holtzoff, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 448 (Vol. 1A, p. 753).
Nevertheless, by the express terms of the rule permission to amend is mandatory only if ‘justice so requires.’
‘The more common reasons for denying leave to amend are that the amendment will result in undue prejudice to the other party, is unduly delayed, is not offered in good faith, or that the party has had sufficient opportunity to state a claim and has failed.’ 3 Moore’s Federal Practice, R15 (Par. 15.08, pp. 897-900). Id. at 592-593.
Subsequently, in Shah v. American Synthetic Rubber Corporation, 655 S.W.2d 489 (Ky. 1983), the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred when it refused to permit amendment of the complaint. It stated: “There is no suggestion that the filing of this pleading could prejudice respondents nor is there any indication that the filing of the amended complaint would work an injustice.” Id. at 493.
We are compelled to reach the same conclusion.”