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Bauman v. Bauman (7/25/97), 942 P 2d 1130
Notice: This opinion is subject to formal correction before
publication in the Pacific Reporter. Readers are requested to bring errors to the
attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska
99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878.
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
ROBERT J. BAUMAN and )
JUDY A. BAUMAN, ) Supreme Court No. S-7587
Appellants, ) Superior Court No.
) 4FA-92-123 CI
HELEN B. DAY as Personal ) O P I N I O N
Representative of the Estate )
of JAMES R. DAY, and HELEN B. ) [No. 4853 - July 25, 1997]
Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of
Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks,
Richard D. Savell, Judge.
Appearances: William R. Satterberg, Jr., Law
Offices of William R. Satterberg, Jr., and Robert John, Fairbanks,
for Appellants. Zane D. Wilson, Cook Schuhmann & Groseclose,
Fairbanks, for Appellees.
Before: Compton, Chief Justice, Rabinowitz,
Matthews, Eastaugh, and Fabe, Justices.
COMPTON, Chief Justice.
On remand from this court, the Baumans filed a motion to
amend their complaint and requested a jury trial. The superior
court denied the motion and the request. The Baumans again appeal.
We conclude that the superior court abused its discretion in
denying the Baumans' motion to amend their complaint; therefore, we
reverse the judgment of the superior court. Because we conclude
the superior court erred in denying the motion to amend, we also
reverse the denial of the request for a jury trial.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
The facts of the underlying dispute are set forth in our
opinion in Bauman v. Day, 892 P.2d 817 (Alaska 1995) (Bauman I).
Briefly, the dispute concerns land the Days sold the Baumans in
1984. Id. at 820. In 1988, the Baumans discovered the land was
laden with permafrost. Id. The Baumans allege that Mr. Day
verbally guaranteed the land was free of permafrost. Id.
In the first proceeding, the superior court ruled that
the statute of limitations on the contract claim had run because
the Baumans filed suit in 1992, more than six years after the sale.
Id. at 822. The court also denied a motion by the Baumans to amend
their complaint a second time, which they had filed as part of a
Civil Rule 60(b) post-judgment motion. Id.
In Bauman I, we held the contract claim was not barred,
because the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the
Baumans discovered the permafrost in 1988. Id. at 827. However,
we affirmed the superior court's denial of the Baumans' motion to
amend their complaint, which was included in their combined Civil
Rule 60(b) post-judgment motion. Id. at 830. The Baumans filed a
petition for rehearing. The petition was granted on one point, but
the Baumans' request for reconsideration of the decision on the
motion to amend was denied.
On remand, the Baumans again filed a motion to amend
their complaint, which the superior court denied. The Baumans
A. Standard of Review
The superior court's decision to allow a party to amend
a complaint is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Betz v. Chena Hot
Springs Group, 742 P.2d 1346, 1348 (Alaska 1987).
B. The Superior Court Should Have Allowed the Baumans'
Motion to File a Second Amended Complaint.
The Baumans' first amended complaint specifically alleges
breach of contract. However, it fails to ask for relief for that
claim. The Baumans now seek to amend their complaint to include a
request for damages caused by the alleged breach.
We have adopted a liberal policy for amending pleadings
under Alaska Civil Rule 15(a). Alaska Civil Rule 15(a) states in
A party may amend the party's pleading once as
a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is
served . . . . Otherwise a party may amend the party's pleading
only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party;
and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.
Alaska Civil Rule 15(a) is identical to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 15(a). The federal rule has been interpreted by
the United States Supreme Court as follows:
Rule 15(a) declares that leave to amend "shall
be freely given when justice so requires"; this mandate is to be
heeded. If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a
plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be
afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the
absence of any apparent or declared reason--such as undue delay,
bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed,
undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the
amendment, futility of amendment, etc.--the leave sought should, as
the rules require, be "freely given."
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)(citation omitted). We
expressly adopted this interpretation of Rule 15. See, e.g.,
Siemion v. Rumfelt, 825 P.2d 896, 898 (Alaska 1992).
When the superior court denied the second motion to amend
in the first proceeding, it already had determined that the statute
of limitations had run. [Fn. 1] Given this posture of the case, it
is understandable that the court would then deny the Baumans'
second motion to amend their complaint. After the first appeal,
however, the posture of the case had changed, as the Baumans'
breach of contract claim had been revived. The reasoning
supporting the court's initial denial of the motion no longer
The superior court's initial consideration of the
Baumans' second motion to amend does not provide a basis for
barring their renewed attempt to amend their complaint after
remand. The Baumans did not engage in "undue delay"and their
behavior did not stem from "bad faith"or "dilatory motive." Their
previous attempt to amend, after the superior court determined the
statute of limitation had run, cannot be characterized as "repeated
failure to cure deficiencies." Because the Baumans' contract claim
had been revived as a result of Bauman I, the second attempt to
amend the complaint was no longer futile. Furthermore, the Days
will not be prejudiced in their defense of the breach of contract
claim that has been alleged since the beginning of this case. See
Estate of Thompson v. Mercedes-Benz, Inc., 514 P.2d 1269, 1271
(Alaska 1973) (appellant should have been permitted to amend absent
any showing that amendment would prejudice opposing party). In
short, there are no circumstances requiring an exception to the
general rule that leave to amend should be freely granted.
The superior court abused its discretion when it denied
the Baumans' motion to amend their complaint following remand from
this court. The Baumans should have been allowed to amend their
complaint in order to pursue their breach of contract claim.
C. Motion for a Jury Trial
There is no dispute that the Baumans made a timely
request for a jury trial. However, without an amended complaint,
the Baumans would have no right to a jury trial, since there would
be nothing to be tried. When the superior court denied their
motion to amend the complaint, it denied the Baumans' request for
a jury trial, as a matter of course. Because we determine that the
superior court incorrectly denied the second amended complaint, we
also hold that the court incorrectly denied the request for a jury
trial. The Days concede as much. The Baumans are entitled to a
jury trial on their second amended complaint.
The judgment of the superior court is REVERSED and the
case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this
The Days argue that the renewed motion to amend the complaint
a second time is barred by "law of the case." The doctrine of law
of the case requires a lower court to follow an appellate court's
prior decision and prohibits reconsideration of issues which have
been adjudicated in an appeal of the case. Mogg v. National Bank
of Alaska, 846 P.2d 806, 810 (Alaska 1993). The Baumans' motion to
amend, filed after their contract claim had been revived, is not
barred by law of the case. During the first proceeding, the
Baumans' motion to amend would have been futile, given the ruling
on the statute of limitations. That decision by the superior court
and our consideration of it in Bauman I does not render the
Baumans' current motion for amendment an "issue which ha[s] been
adjudicated in a previous appeal in the same case." Wolff v.
Arctic Bowl, Inc., 560 P.2d 758, 763 (Alaska 1977).