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May amendment be allowed to correct a jurisdictional defect?

Amendment to correct a jurisdictional defect before a responsive pleading is served

A fair reading of jurisprudence recognizes the right of a pleader to amend his complaint before a responsive pleading is served even if its effect is to correct a jurisdictional defect. The argument that the court cannot allow such type of amendment since the court must first possess jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint before it can act on any amendment has no application upon an amendment that is made as matter of right. (Riano, Civil Procedure, Book 1, The Bar Lecture Series)

Amendment to correct a jurisdictional defect after a responsive pleading is served

An amendment of the complaint to correct a jurisdictional error cannot be validly done after a responsive pleading is served. The amendment this time would require leave of court, a matter which requires the exercise of sound judicial discretion. The exercise of this discretion requires the performance of a positive act by the court. If it grants the amendment, it would be acting on a complaint over which it has no jurisdiction. Its action would be one performed without jurisdiction.

The situation is vastly different from an amendment as a matter of right. Here, the court does not act. The admission of the amendment is a ministerial duty of the court. It requires no positive action from the court. Since it would not be acting in this regard, it could not be deemed as acting without jurisdiction. (Riano, Civil Procedure, Book 1, The Bar Lecture Series)

Bar Question:

On May 12, 2005, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for the collection of P250,000.00. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction over the action since the claimed amount of P250,000.00 is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City.

Before the court could resolve the motion, the plaintiff, without leave of court, amended his complaint to allege a new cause of action consisting in the inclusion of an additional amount of P200,000.00, thereby increasing his total claim to P450,000.00 The plaintiff thereafter filed his opposition to the motion to dismiss, claiming that the Regional Trial Court had jurisdiction over his action. Rule on the motion of the defendant with reasons. (Bar 2005)

Suggested answer.

The motion to dismiss should be denied. The amendment was made before a responsive pleading was served on the plaintiff. The pending motion to dismiss did not affect the right of the plaintiff to amend his complaint as a matter of right because a motion to dismiss is not a responsive pleading. The amendment correcting a jurisdictional defect was proper because no responsive pleading has been served at the time of the amendment. The rule that a complaint cannot be amended to confer jurisdiction on a court where there was none applies only to an amendment made after a responsive pleading has been served.

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