Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Requests for Admissions

Another discovery tool available to the parties in a court case is requests for admissions.  These can be devastating on their own.  And they can be combined with questions and requests for production to leverage their power even further.

Requests for admissions are unusual.  Most other discovery requests are designed to get information.  A question may ask for witness names and contact information.  A question may ask when something happened or for information about damages the other side is claiming.  A request for production may seek copies of agreements or correspondence.

Unlike those, a request for admission asks the other side to admit or deny a factual proposition such as whether something even happened.  A request for admission may also apply law to facts, getting at whether or not something is even legally significant.  So a party could ask the opponent to admit they have no damages to claim or that a claim is legally stale.

If there is an admission then that issue is treated as a settled matter by the court.  It is a done deal, at least for that item.

Clearly having the other side admit that you have a great case, significant damages, and they have no defenses would certainly help your side.  And requests for admissions can do that.

Of course the responding party will do everything they can to avoid giving a damaging admission.  And this is where the leverage comes in from combining requests for admissions with requests for production.  There is an authorized form interrogatory in California used in combination with requests for admissions.  In that interrogatory the answering party is required to identify each admission denied, state all facts supporting the denial, identify witnesses with knowledge, and identify documents supporting the denial.  The request for production can seek the documents identified in the interrogatory answer.

So the responding party is faced with the prospect of admitting various things or justifying the denials with facts, witnesses and documents.  Talk about a way of getting information about a case.

The common way to avoid all this is to object to the request.  Perhaps commensurate with their power, requests for admissions are difficult to prepare such that they avoid objections.  The requests for admissions must be single propositions.  They must be very simple and clear.  It is common to see sloppy drafting where people pack a couple of questions into each request.  Or they can be vague or ambiguous.  Such problems can be fatal to the question.  Given the power of the requests they have to be very well drawn or they will not work.

If there is a dispute about the validity of a request or appropriateness of an objection, the parties can go to court to have a judge rule on the issue.  That takes time and costs money.  The losing party may have to pay some or all the expenses for the fight.  So, pick your battles.

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