Manifest Abuse Of Discretion Required In Illinois To Reverse Order Denying Leave To Amend Complaint

The Third District Illinois Appellate Court reversed a trial court’s order denying leave to amend a complaint. The case is Gurnitz v. Lasits- Rohline Service. The appellate court stated the standard of review: “The decision whether to grant leave to amend a pleading rests within the sound discretion of the trial court . . . Therefore, the trial court’s decision will stand absent a manifest abuse of discretion.” The court left no word on what a “manifest” abuse of discretion is. Is it any different than a plain old abuse of discretion? Any more strict?

The Third District cited the Illinois Supreme Court for the “manifest” abuse of discretion standard. And indeed the supreme court did use that exact language in Loyola Academy v. S & S Roof Maintenance, Inc., 146 Ill.2d 263, 273-74, 166 Ill.Dec. 882, 586 N.E.2d 1211, 1216 (1992). No word in Loyola Academy either defining the term.

Loyola Academy lists the factors that determine the propriety of a motion for leave to amend. The first factor is whether the proposed amendment would cure the defect in the original pleading. That sounds like a question of law, which should require de novo review, not abuse of discretion. The analyses in Loyola Academy and in Gurnitz support the idea that this factor is a question of law. Neither opinion mentions the standard of review in discussing this factor.

So I am puzzled. What is a “manifest” abuse of discretion? Why use that standard for what is clearly a question of law? Stay tuned as your humble editor explores the depth of these mysteries.