Henry C. Woodward appeals the trial court’s orders in favor of Heritage Construction Company’s (“Heritage’s”) action to foreclose on a mechanic’s lien and request for attorney’s fees and costs. Woodward also appeals the court’s denial of his motion to amend the pleadings to conform with the evidence. Woodward raises three issues for our review, which we restate as follows:
1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Woodward’s request to amend the pleadings to conform to the evidence, which would have permitted Woodward to argue an otherwise unraised affirmative defense.
2. Whether the court’s finding that Heritage’s mechanic’s lien had been timely filed was clearly erroneous.
3. Whether the court abused its discretion in the admission of evidence pertaining to Heritage’s attorney’s fees.
Conclusion (slip op. at 13-14): In sum, the trial court did not err in denying Woodward’s Motion to Amend, in finding Heritage’s notice of its intention to hold a mechanic’s lien timely filed, or in permitting Heritage to proceed with evidence of its attorney’s fees even though Heritage had rested its case. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court in all respects.
Key Analysis (slip op. at 6, 11): Woodward was not entitled to conform his pleadings at the end of the trial to add an unlitigated defense under HICA. Amendments of the pleadings to conform to the evidence are permissible only when the parties have consented to and litigated issues not originally raised by the pleadings. Such amendments are not a procedural tool to reopen litigation . . . permitting Heritage to proceed with evidence of its attorney’s fees enabled the court to do justice on the merits of Heritage’s claim against Woodward. And by ordering a separate, later hearing on the issue of attorney’s fees, the court mitigated any surprise or disruption that may have resulted from Heritage’s request.