Leave to amend a complaint shall be freely given when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). While a decision whether to grant leave to amend is clearly within the discretion of the district court, a justifying reason must be apparent for denial of a motion to amend.
Plaintiff patient filed suit against defendants, doctor and medical center, alleging lack of informed consent one day before the statute of limitations expired. Plaintiff alleged that defendant doctor failed to inform her of therapies available as alternatives to surgery. Defendants moved for summary judgment and plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to add claims of defendant doctor's negligence during and after surgery. Initially, the court granted plaintiff’s motion but later vacated said order and granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The trial court reasoned that the newly-asserted claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that allowing the amendment would, therefore, be futile.
Did the amended complaint relate back to the original complaint so as to survive the statute of limitations?
Plaintiff's amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint so as to survive the statute of limitations because it was new and distinct conduct, alleging completely different facts. Summary judgment was proper under Ga. Code Ann. § 31-9-6.1 (1991) because defendants provided overwhelming evidence that alternative therapies were not generally recognized and accepted by reasonably prudent physicians. Therefore, there was no duty to inform plaintiff of the availability of the alternative therapies.