Party Cannot File an “Amendment” to a Complaint If Trial Court Did Not Have Jurisdiction Over Original Complaint

In Off Campus College Bookstore, Inc. v. University of Alabama in Huntsville, [Ms. 1071426] (Ala. May 29, 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court applied the well-settled rule that an appeal cannot lie from a void judgment and dismissed the appeal where the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the case due to sovereign immunity.  The Court further held that the attempt to cure the jurisdiction defect failed.

The plaintiff , a bookstore not affiliated with the University, sued UAH to get copies of student lists to advertise the sale of textbooks and other school-related items to incoming students.  The plaintiff originally sued only UAH.  After UAH filed a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff amended the compalint to add UAH’s president as a defendant.  The trial court granted summary judgment to UAH and the president, and the plaintiff appealed. 

On appeal, the Supreme Court found that UAH was immune from suit due to sovereign immunity and that, therefore, the judgment against it was void.  However, the Supreme Court also held that the amendment to the complaint adding the president, who would not be immune and was the proper defendant, was a nullity.  The Supreme Court held that because the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the initial suit, the complaint could not be amended because you cannot amend something that is void.  Therefore, the entire judgment was void, and the entire appeal was dismissed.