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Florida Second DCA rules the trial court erred in allowing plaintiff to amend complaint, finding that the defendant was prejudiced by the amendment

On March 23, 2018, in Tracey v. Wells Fargo, Case No. 2D16-5091, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s judgment for the plaintiff in a mortgage foreclosure case, finding that the defendant had been prejudiced by the trial court’s ruling allowing the plaintiff to amend its pleadings at trial to conform to the evidence under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(b). If a proposed amendment is objected to by the adverse party, Rule 1.190(b) requires the trial court to be satisfied that the admission of evidence pursuant to the amendment will not prejudice that party. The Second DCA noted that few trial courts have attempted to precisely define the meaning of “prejudice” in this context, but that a few “guiding principles” could be discerned, starting with the principle that “pleadings function as a safeguard of due process by ensuring that the parties will have prior, meaningful notice of the claims, defenses, rights, and obligations that will be atissue when they come before a court.” The Court concluded that prejudice turns on whether a litigant’s right to notice of what to prepare for at trial was infringed. Based on these principles, the Court concluded that the defendant had been prejudiced by the amendment because the defendant had earlier in the litigation abandoned its argument that the alleged modification agreements that underlay the proposed amendment constituted a basis of recovery.