North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court’s Denial of Defendant’s Motion to Amend Complaint to Add Comparative Negligence Defense

One of the most challenging parts of bringing a civil claim for damages is understanding the various procedural rules that apply to your case. When it comes to filing an amended complaint, for example, there are rules governing how and when an amended complaint can be filed. Discovering new evidence can be incredibly helpful for your case, but only if you are allowed to amend the complaint to add a new claim or new allegations. At Maurer Law, our Charlotte car accident lawyers are prepared to assist you with seeking compensation after suffering injuries in an accident. This includes handling all phases of the legal process and protecting your rights.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether a lower court properly denied a defendant’s request for leave to amend their answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. The case arose from a car accident in which the defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. When the accident happened, there was a red flashing light pointed at traffic from the road on which the defendant was traveling. There was also a stop sign five to ten feet back from the intersection. The lane of traffic in which the plaintiff was traveling was facing a yellow flashing caution light. The defendant drove across the plaintiff’s lane of travel when attempting to make a left turn.

In answering the complaint, the defendant denied the allegations but did not raise contributory negligence as a defense. This is a theory that holds a plaintiff accountable where the defendant can show that the plaintiff also acted negligently at the time of the crash. If the defendant can show that the plaintiff was also negligent, then the plaintiff is barred completely from recovering compensation. A few days later after filing the answer, the defendant filed an amended answer.

Shortly before trial, the defendants filed a motion seeking leave to amend to add contributory negligence as an affirmative defense. It offered evidence from Google Earth showing what it described as new evidence about the site where the accident took place. The trial court denied the motion for leave to amend on a number of bases, including the defendant’s delay in bringing the amendment and the prejudice it would cause the plaintiff by allowing the defendant to add an affirmative defense on the eve of trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and the defendant appealed, stating that the lower court committed a reversible error by denying its motion for leave to amend. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s denial of the motion noting that lower courts have broad deference in determining whether to grant leave to amend. The appellate court reviewed the record and agreed that allowing the defendant to add the affirmative defense on the eve of the trial was unfairly prejudicial to the plaintiff.

If you were injured in a car accident, you may have a claim for compensation against the parties responsible for your injuries. To learn more about your potential rights, you can schedule a free and confidential consultation with the compassionate Charlotte car accident lawyers at Maurer Law. Call our office today at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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