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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 ).

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Colo., FRCP 36, FRCP 36(a), FRCP 36(b), Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix, Request for Admissions | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Cunningham; Court Examines Motion Accusing Party of ‘Failing to Confer’

Posted by rjbiii on August 13, 2008

As a preliminary matter, counsel disagree on whether Plaintiff satisfied the duty to confer pursuant to D.C. Colo. L. Civ. R. 7.1(A). Plaintiff’s certification asserts that counsel made reasonable, good-faith efforts to resolve Defendant’s objections to the Requests for Admission (“RFA”) before filing the Motion with the Court. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(A), the Court will not consider a nondispositive motion unless the movant, prior to filing, has conferred or made reasonable, good-faith efforts to confer with opposing counsel to resolve the dispute. To confer means to “discuss, talk over, consult about,” or “to hold conference.” See Oxford English Dictionary (2d ed. 1989). Accordingly, the language of Local Rule 7.1(A) suggests that parties confer by “hold[ing] a conference, possibly through the exchange of correspondence but preferably through person-to-person telephone calls or face-to-face meetings, and [by] compar[ing] views and attempt[ing] to reach an agreement, including by compromise if appropriate.” Hoelzel v. First Select Corp., 214 F.R.D. 634, 636 (D. Colo. 2003). If both parties have not discussed and compared views in an attempt to reach an agreement, the movant must at least make reasonable, good-faith efforts to do so. The Court judges the reasonableness of movant’s good-faith efforts by considering not only the sheer quantity of contacts, but also their quality. Cotracom Commodity Trading Co. v. Seaboard Corp., 189 F.R.D. 456, 459 (D. Kan. 1999) (holding that four phone calls and two letters did not satisfy the duty to make a reasonable, good-faith effort to confer).

On March 24, 2008, Plaintiff’s counsel mailed Defendant a single letter that requested that Defendant reconsider its objections to the RFAs. This letter did not threaten filing the Motion if Defendant failed to respond immediately. See id. Plaintiff offers no evidence of Defendant’s response to this letter, if any. Only seven days later, on March 31, 2008, Plaintiff filed the Motion. This is insufficient evidence of a good-faith attempt to confer pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(A). The Court notes that it would be permissible to deny the Motion on the basis of Plaintiff’s failure to confer pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(A). However, the Court declines to deny the Motion on that basis and will decide it on the merits. Counsel are warned that a failure to confer in the future will result in summary denial of any motion. Cunningham v. Std. Fire Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52518, 1-3 (D. Colo. May 29, 2008 ) (internal citations to pleadings removed).

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Colo., Good Faith, Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix, Meet and Confer | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Cunningham; Relevancy, and Who has the Burden to Prove it

Posted by rjbiii on July 21, 2008

[P]ursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), any discovery sought must be relevant. Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be considered if there is “any possibility” that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party. See, e.g., Sheldon v. Vermonty, 204 F.R.D. 679, 689-90 (D.Kan.2001). “When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure .” Simpson v. University of Colorado, 220 F.R.D. 354, 350 (D.Colo.2004) (citations omitted). Further, the objecting party cannot “sustain this burden with boilerplate claims that the requested discovery is oppressive, burdensome or harassing.” Id. (citation omitted). However, when a request for discovery is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.

Cunningham v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2668301 (D. Colo. July 1, 2008 )

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Colo., Discovery Requests, FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix, Objections to Discovery Requests, Overly Broad Request, Relevance | Leave a Comment »