Amending a Complaint in Hawaii

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A case is started by filing by a Complaint. The party filing the Complaint is called the Plaintiff. In certain cases, a Plaintiff may decide to change his initial Complaint. There are many possible reasons that a Plaintiff may change or “amend” the Complaint (ie. the discovery of new evidence, a change in law, or even correcting a simple mistake). Hawaii Courts have specific rules for amending a Complaint. A Plaintiff may amend her Complaint once any time before an Answer or “responsive pleading” is served. Haw. R. Civ. P.15(a). However, if the amendment is sought after the Answer is filed, the Plaintiff must either obtain (i) written consent from the opposing party or (ii) permission from the Court.

Fortunately, that permission or “leave”, as it is referred to in the rules, is to be “freely given when justice so requires.” Haw. R. Civ. P.15(a). See also Hirasa v. Burtner, 68 Haw. 22, 26, 702 P.2d 772, 775 (1985) (stating same). A request for leave to amend may be made at any time. Kahalepauole v. Associates Four, 8 Haw. App. 7, 14, 791 P.2d 720, 724 (1990). Moreover, it is appropriate to grant the requested leave so long as there has been no undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, nor undue prejudice to the non-moving party. Bishop Trust Co. v. Kamokila Dev. Corp., 57 Haw. 330, 337, 555 P.2d 1193, 1198 (1976).

Both State and Federal Courts have recognized the generous standard in Rule 15 (a). In addition, the Ninth Circuit has held that the policy of favoring amendments should be applied with “extreme liberality.” United States v. Webb, 644 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). The purpose of this policy is primarily because the Courts favor giving a Plaintiff the opportunity to “test his claim on the merits” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). In other words, a party should be given his “day in Court”, rather than limiting Plaintiffs claims through overly restrictive pleading rules.