An amended complaint is a legal document that is essentially a revised copy of a previously filed complaint. In most cases “complaints” are written statements filed with a court that initiate a lawsuit. They usually name both parties, set out the list of problems, and ask the court for some specific sort of relief, commonly monetary compensation. People who file complaints are frequently allowed to re-file within a certain amount of time, which is known as an “amendment.” Most legal systems around the world have a system for allowing compliant modifications and updates, though each tends to have its own rules when it comes to procedural allowances and things like timing. In general, though, parties are allowed to amend their complaints under three broad circumstances: when they want to add new claims or causes of action; when they want to add new parties; or when they want to correct substantial problems or defects with the original filing. Courts usually have to approve proposed amendments, and they may deny them under certain circumstances. Most of the time approved changes have to be served or delivered to all parties in roughly the same way the original document was.
Most legal systems that allow individuals to file complaints initially will also allow for amendments under certain circumstances. Amendments are particularly commonplace in the United States, where Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a plaintiff, or person initiating the lawsuit, may amend his complaint as a matter of course if the defendant, the party against whom the action is happening, has not filed an answer to the original complaint. In these cases, the amendment is essentially a re-try and is most common when the plaintiff forgot to add something important and realized it right away.
Things change a little bit if the defendant has filed his answer to the original complaint. In these cases, the plaintiff can usually only amend his complaint when either the defendant consents or the court gives specific permission. Once the defendant has prepared a response, the proceeding can really be seen to have begun, and adding new claims or charges at this point can sometimes be unfair, at least in the eyes of the law. Just the same, most courts freely allow a plaintiff to amend his complaint unless the amendment would create a lot of difficulty or hardship for the defendant.
Additional Causes or Parties
There are many reasons why a plaintiff might want to amend a complaint. He or she may have subsequently discovered additional facts about the lawsuit since the time of filing, for instance. In addition, a plaintiff may wish to amend the complaint to include additional causes of action or requests for relief, or to name additional parties as defendants to the action.
Most amendments are made on the plaintiff’s initiation, but not always. If a court discovers substantial problems with a complaint, it might actually recommend that an amendment be filed to allow the claims to proceed. This is most common when the court grants a defendant’s motion to dismiss on procedural grounds. A motion to dismiss can either be granted “with prejudice” or “without prejudice.” Dismissals with prejudice can’t be refilled, usually because the claims were frivolous or otherwise inappropriate. If the dismissal was without prejudice, however, a plaintiff usually has the opportunity to try again. Dismissals without prejudice are usually the result of procedural errors or technical problems with the compliant that can be fixed pretty easily.
Service of Process and Basic Procedure
It’s usually the case that the amended or modified complaint must be served on the defendant the same way the original was. “Service of process” is the legal name for delivery, and is designed to ensure fairness and transparency. Different courts set out different means through which this needs to happen. Sometimes just mailing the complaint is acceptable, but other times it needs to be hand delivered; it some cases it can be announced though publication, too, such as in a local paper.
Different jurisdictions have different rules, but in most instances the amendment will extend the amount of time the defendant has to respond. He or she usually starts with 21 days from the date of the original complaint, or 10 days from the date of service of the amended complaint, whichever time period is longer. The time can often be extended at the discretion of the court, but in most cases the new compliant must set out a specific deadline by which the recipient must respond. Failing to send an answer or appear on the date specified can lead to a default judgment or various fines.