Brief Fact Summary. After Agnes Littlejohn (Ms. Littlejohn) slipped on a wet spot on the floor of her apartment, she sued the owner of the apartment. The district judge issued a directed verdict against Ms. Littlejohn rather than allow her to amend the pretrial order, which would have changed her theory of the case.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A trial judge has the discretion to refuse to allow a party to change his legal theory during the case by amending the pretrial order.
It is settled law that where the owner of premises, by lease, parts with the entire possession and control of the premises, and the tenant, either by express provision of the lease or by the silence of the lease on that subject, assumes liability for the keeping of the premises in proper repair, the tenant, and not the owner, will be liable in case of an accident due to negligence in allowing the premises, or any portion thereof, to get out of repair.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a court must allow a party to amend their complaint during the trial so as to change his theory of the case.
Held. No. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the trial judge did not err in directing a verdict for Appellees. The trial judge did not abuse his “justifiably large discretion” in refusing to permit Appellant to change her theory during the trial.
Dissent. Judge Fahy dissented. He would have permitted Appellant to amend the pretrial order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 16 because he felt that a greater manifest injustice would result to Appellant in precluding her from proceeding under the applicable law, than the injustice that would be felt by Appellee taken by surprise by the change.
Discussion. Students should be aware that in addition to not allowing Appellant to change theories during the trial, the court felt a directed verdict was appropriate because Ms. Littlejohn was contributory negligent in causing the accident, as she was aware of the wetness and walked over it any