Law School Case Brief
Hamilton v. Accu-Tek - 62 F. Supp. 2d 802 (E.D.N.Y. 1999)
The court has discretion to grant a motion brought pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(b), even in the absence of express or implied consent so long as the nonmoving party would not thereby be prejudiced, and the motion should be granted in the absence of such prejudice if the interests of justice so require. Prejudice exists if the opponent could have tried the case substantially more effectively, as by presenting further evidence, calling additional witnesses or taking depositions, had it known of the amendment earlier. Prejudice is not presumed to result merely from a party's use of a new legal theory.
Plaintiff Freddie Hamilton, a shooting victim, sued defendant Accu-Tek and other gun manufacturers in federal district court, claiming that their indiscriminate marketing and distribution practices generated an underground market that provided violent criminals with easy access to handguns. After a jury verdict in Hamilton's favor, Accu-Tek filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b); Hamilton filed a motion to amend his pleadings to conform to the proofs.
Should Hamilton's motion to amend his pleadings be granted?
In granting Hamilton's motion, the trial court concluded that amendment was appropriate under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(b), as Accu-Tek was not disadvantaged and suffered no prejudice. In denying Accu-Tek's motion for judgment as a matter of law, the trial court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to persuade a rational jury that criminal misuse of handguns was a reasonably foreseeable result of Accu-Tek's negligent marketing and distribution practices, that Hamilton was shot with an unlawfully obtained handgun, that the gun used would not have been available had Accu-Tek taken reasonable preventive measures, and that Accu-Tek thus proximately caused Hamilton's injuries.
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