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Otness v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Otness sued the United States Coast Guard for negligently issuing a bulletin regarding the presence of the Coast Guard’s navigation aid and sought a leave to amend the complaint to add a claim of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct committed on the part of the government.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A party cannot be granted leave to amend their complaint if such action would be prejudicial to the opposing party.

    Facts.

    The U.S. Coast Guard’s navigation aid sank near Petersburg, Alaska. The Coast Guard issued a bulletin that the navigation aid was not visible above the bottom of the channel. Otness sued the U.S. Coast Guard when he collided with the navigation aid for negligently issuing the bulletin. Otness sought a leave to amend the complaint to add a claim of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct committed on the part of the government.

    Issue.

    Whether a party can be granted leave to amend their complaint if such action would be prejudicial to the opposing party?

    Held.

    No. The motion to amend is denied. Although Otness claims that amending the pleading to willful, wanton, or reckless conduct would not be prejudicial, the government would have to show willful or wanton contributory negligence, because the government originally only plead contributory negligence on the part of Otness. Otness also has not shown that the government consented to the claim of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct and there is no evidence of such conduct by the Coast Guard.

    Discussion.

    FRCP 15(b)(2) permits a party leave to amend the complaint in order to add additional claims with the express or implied consent of both of the parties.


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