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Amendment of pleadings after a response has been served is only by leave of court and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 15(a). A motion for leave to amend is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge and the denial of such motion is not reviewable absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion. Although a trial court is not required to state specific reasons for denial of a motion to amend, reasons that would justify a denial are (a) undue delay, (b) bad faith, (c) undue prejudice, (d) futility of amendment, and (e) repeated failure to cure defects by previous amendments.
In April 1985, plaintiff Hallie Holloway purchased a car financed by defendant Wachovia Bank & Trust Co., N.A. (hereinafter "Wachovia"). She defaulted on the loan. On 21 May 1986, defendant Jean Dawson, an employee of defendant Wachovia, attempted to repossess the car in the parking lot outside of a Durham laundromat. In their 27 April 1988 complaint, plaintiffs alleged that defendant Dawson aimed a gun at them in her attempt to repossess the car. Each plaintiff sought recovery for assault, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and for violations of G.S. 75-51 and G.S. 75-56 (hereinafter "G.S. Chapter 75 claims"). Additionally, plaintiffs Hallie Holloway and Damien Holloway sought recovery for battery arising from defendant Dawson's touching them while "reach[ing] through the window of the car" to take the car keys from the ignition. Defendants filed separate answers. On 1 July 1988, defendant Wachovia filed an answer with a counterclaim against Hallie for the amount owed on the underlying debt ($ 1,933.74), interest, and attorney's fees. Defendant Wachovia denied that "at the time of the alleged incident complained of the Defendant Dawson was acting as an agent of Wachovia." In her 13 July 1988 answer, defendant Dawson denied plaintiffs' allegations and pleaded inter alia self-defense. Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint, however this was denied by the trial court. Plaintiffs appealed. Plaintiffs first contended that the trial court erred in denying their motions to amend pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1.
Did the trial court err in denying the motion to amend?
The court held that, although the trial court did not give specific reasons why it denied plaintiffs' motion to amend its complaint, the court found that plaintiffs provided no justifiable excuse for their delay in bringing the motion. The court held that plaintiffs failed to make a clear showing of abuse of discretion by the trial court. Plaintiffs maintained that the trial court erred when it dismissed their intentional infliction of emotional distress and claims. The court held that when one sought to recover damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from an incident in which the defendant was alleged to have committed the acts of assault and battery, the plaintiff must have shown that there was a threat of future harm. The court held that plaintiffs' complaint did not allege that there was any threat of future harm by defendants. The court did reverse as to one plaintiff's battery claim and one plaintiff's assault claim.