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Case Blurb: Cunningham; Court Discusses Requests for Admissions

Posted by rjbiii on August 13, 2008

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 36, Plaintiff’s Motion requests that the Court determine the sufficiency of Defendant’s objections to the RFAs. Pursuant to Rule 36(a)(1)(A), “[a] party may serve upon any other party a written request to admit . . . the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to: facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; . . . .” The responding party may specifically admit, deny, or qualify an answer. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4). Absent court permission to withdraw or amend, admissions are binding on a party in the pending action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b). Furthermore, Rule 36 allows parties to object to a request for admission so long as the grounds for objection are stated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(5). If an objection is justified, the party is not required to admit or deny the truth of the matter. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(6).

The purpose of Rule 36 is to reduce trial time by facilitating proof with respect to issues that cannot be eliminated from the case and by narrowing the issues that must be proved at trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36 Advisory Committee’s note. Essentially, requests for admission “expedite trials by establishing as true certain material facts of a case without the necessity of formal proof at trial.” Keen v. Detroit Diesel Allison, 569 F.2d 547, 554 (10th Cir. 1978 ). Because requests for admission establish the truth of the matter, they “are not to be treated as substitutes for discovery processes to uncover evidence, and that they may not be applied to controverted legal issues lying at the heart of the case.” Cal. v. The Jules Fribourg, 19 F.R.D. 432, 436 (N.D. Cal. 1955); see also Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v. Rawstron, 181 F.R.D. 441, 445 (C.D. Cal. 1998 ) (quoting 8A Wright, Miller & Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2252 at 524-525 (2d ed. 1994) (Rule 36 “presupposes that the party proceeding under it knows the facts.”)).

As a general rule, parties should use requests for admission to elicit simple and direct answers. Herrera v. Scully, 143 F.R.D. 545, 549 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). “Compound, complex, and vague [requests for admission] are prone to . . . objection.” William W. Schwarzer et al., Civil Discovery and Mandatory Disclosure: A Guide to Efficient Practice, 5-6 (2d ed. 1994). For example, requests for admission that are overly broad or vague as to time or scope are properly objectionable. FTC v. Think All Publ’g L.L.C., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18561, 2008 WL 687454, *4 (E.D. Tex. March 11, 2008 ) (unpublished decision). In addition, requests for admission relating to the truth of a legal conclusion are properly objectionable, even though Rule 36 permits the application of law to fact. Utley v. Wray, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68413, 2007 WL 2703094, *3 (D. Kan. September 14, 2007) (citing Disability Rights Council v. Wash. Metro. Area, 234 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2006)). Specifically, “requests for admissions of law which are related to the facts of the case are considered to be inappropriate.” Lakehead Pipe Line Co. V. Am. Home Assur. Co., 177 F.R.D. 454, 458 (D. Minn. 1997).

Cunningham v. Std. Fire Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52518, 3-6 (D. Colo. May 29, 2008 ).

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