is it possible to amend a complaint after it was already served and answered?
Yes, it is possible to amend the complaint after the defendant files an answer. You can accomplish this in one of two ways, either by noticed motion for leave to file an amended complaint or by stipulation of the defendant for leave to amend the complaint. Since such motions are routinely granted, you ought to be able to get the stipulation.
In California, the courts are liberal in granting leave to amend a complaint if the plaintiff can demonstrate a meritorious claim.
Code of Civil Procedure section 473 provides:
The court may, in furtherance of justice, and on any terms as may be proper, allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding by adding or striking out the name of any party, or by correcting a mistake in the name of a party, or a mistake in any other respect. The court may likewise, in its discretion, after notice to the adverse party, allow, upon any terms as may be just, an amendment to any pleading or proceeding in other particulars; and may upon like terms allow an answer to be made after the time limited by this code.
Courts liberally exercise its discretion to permit the filing of a first amended complaint. (Nestle v. Santa Monica (1972) 6 C3d 920, 939.) The policy favoring amendment is so strong that it is a rare case in which denial of leave to amend can be justified: If the motion to amend is timely made and the granting of the motion will not prejudice the opposing party, it is error to refuse permission to amend; and where the refusal also results in a party being deprived of the right to assert a meritorious cause of action or a meritorious defense, it is not only error but an abuse of discretion. (Morgan vs. Superior Court (1959) 172 CA 2d 527, 530.)
For guidelines on how to file a noticed motion, see:
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
A complaint can always be amended - even a trial. The complaint must amended by a noticed motion after it has been answered. A motion to amend the complaint must be filed a served on the opposing party in compliance with the statutory requirements after the complaint has been answered. This type of a motion must also comply with both the Code of Civil Procedure and the California Rules of the Court in order to be seriously considered by the court. It should be prepared by an attorney experienced in litigation who is also prepared to argue the merits of the motion at a hearing.
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Yes, if the court gives leave to amend upon a noticed motion for leave to amend. In fact, multiple amendments can be accomplished (in sequence at various stages of the matter) if the court allows.
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