Virginia Amendment: Va. Sup. Ct. Rule 1:8 – a Lawyer’s Motion

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Defendants routinely oppose motions for leave to amend in wrongful death, brain injury and other cases against them. But Virginia courts routinely grant leave, consistent with the liberal mandate of Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1:8.

“Leave to amend shall be liberally granted in furtherance of the ends of justice.” Va. Sup. Ct. R. 1:8 (emphasis added). Fifty years ago the Virginia Supreme Court embraced its Rule’s liberality toward amendment as the modern trend. “The tendency of modern decisions is reflected in our Rule”. Goode v. Courtney, 200 Va. 804, 807 (1959).

Virginia Circuit Courts routinely grant leave to amend to further justice. E.g.Pedigo v. Flattop Mountain Landowner’s Assn., Inc, 73 Va. Cir. 26, 33 (Greene Dec. 7, 2006); PMG Invs., LLC v. Gravely-Robinson, 71 Va. Cir. 140, 141 (Roanoke Jun. 14, 2006). In PMG, the circuit court granted an amendment on an appeal de novo from General District Court. In Pedigo, the circuit court granted leave to amend after sustaining a demurrer.

“A trial court that fails to allow amendments is likely to have abused its discretion. See, e.g., Peterson v. Castano, 260 Va. 299 534 S.E. 2d 736 (2000); Mortarino v. Consultant Eng’g Servs., Inc., 251 Va. 289 467 S.E. 2d 778 (1996).” Drewery v. City of Roanoke, 63 Va. Cir. 609, 619 (Roanoke Sep. 7, 2001). Kole v. City of Chesapeake, 247 Va. 51 (1994); XL Specialty Ins. Co. v. Commonwealth, 47 Va. App. 424 (2006); and Dirtselis v. Dirtselis, 2005 Va. App. LEXIS 451 (Nov. 8, 2005). The Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia regularly have reversed and remanded for denial of leave to amend. E.g., Peterson, 260 Va. at 303-304; Mortarino, 251 Va. at 295-296; Kole, 247 Va. at 57; XL, 47 Va. App. at 437-438; andDirtselis, 205 Va. App. LEXIS 451 at *11-14. In Mortarino, the circuit court properly had sustained a demurrer, but “abused its discretion in failing to allow the filing of the amended motion for judgment”. 251 Va. at 296.

In Booher v. Botetourt County Board of Supervisors, 65 Va. Cir. 53, 59-61 (Botetourt Apr. 29, 2004), Defendants variously opposed the motion for leave to amend on grounds of it being unseasonable, the movant not showing it would not be futile, and the movant not having tendered the proposed amendment. But the court found no untimeliness despite months having past since initial filing, where there was no trial date or discovery. Id. at 60. Next the court in Booher rejected the futility assertion: “There is no technical burden upon a party seeking leave to amend to demonstrate that the amendment will not be futile. Nothing within the Rules of Virginia’s jurisprudence calls for such a showing.” Id. Then the Court held that although producing the proposed amendment at hearing “may be preferable and is often done, it is not required.” Id. Finally, Booher observed that the burden instead was on defendant opposing the Motion, who could not show undue prejudice. Id. at 61.