Requests for admissions are an ordinary discovery device used primarily to eliminate matters about which there is no real controversy, thereby streamlining the litigation process. Ever wonder what can be asked, and what one must admit (or not admit)? Read on!
As always I use my jurisdiction by way of example (Houston) but most are very similar, especially if you take a peek at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Also keep in mind many courts will have their own set of local rules so just Google the particular court you’re interested in.
In Texas, requests for admissions are governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure in general, and Rule 198 in particular. For federal cases, it’s the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, R. 36. Google the rules for your own state. They likely are similar or the same as the federal rules. You may use this article as a general guide (ONLY), then look up your particular state’s rules to see how they may differ.
Requests for admissions are specific questions that require the answering party to either admit or deny a particular fact. They must be in writing and may be served only on other parties to the lawsuit at any time after the suit is filed. Texas discovery rules permit the request to be filed with the original petition (for an example of an original petition, click here)–or the document which commences the whole lawsuit. In that event, the answers are due 50 days after citation of service (being “served” w/ a notice that states something like “You have been sued …”). (Normally, one would have 30 days in which to respond.)
If the requests are served after the original complaint, the responding party is generally given 30 days in which to answer, but in either case, the time to respond must be in writing along with the requests. (For an example of a request for admissions in an auto accident case in another state, click here.)
**The danger here is that if you are the one served, and if you do not admit, deny, or challenge the request for admissions by the due date stated in the request, then they automatically become admitted as true as a matter of law!
Generally, you’ll see or employ just one-word answers, such as “Admit you were at the gas station at 7 pm when it was robbed on such-and-such date,” then the answer need be only “Admit” or “Admitted,“ or conversely “Deny” or “Denied.” This is an over-simplistic explanation, but you get the gist. (You can see examples of responses to requests for admissions in another state here.)
In Texas, you may object to a request for admission on the grounds that you can neither admit nor deny (and you must state the reason why this is so); or that you lack the information to admit or deny, provided you made a “reasonable inquiry” and the information known to you is insufficient to permit a definitive answer; or you may assert a privilege, such as “attorney-client privilege.”
The general rule for all discovery devices is that questions or requests are permissible so long as they are “reasonably calculated to lead to discoverable information” (see TRCP 192 Scope of Discovery for confirmation).
While they cannot be used to admit a conclusion of law, requests for admissions can be used to attest to the genuineness of articles (for example: Admit this is the original contract signed by you on such-and-such date); to affirm certain pieces of evidence (so they may be admitted later at trial should that become necessary); and they may ask a party to admit an opinion or fact.
For more info: Always remember to check your own state’s rules, and any local rules that may apply! For an overview of civil procedure, go here.
Additionally, this is a simplistic explanation for general purposes; if it were really this cut & dried we’d all be lawyers!
For additional helpful background information, please see “A primer on all the different types of courts?”
Note: I am not an attorney. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.
Next up we’ll take a look at Requests for Production – and we’ll wind up the series on everyone’s favorite: depositions! Be sure to visit Sami’s blog for Parts I & II of her discovery series, as this article is Part III! Be sure to check out her blog at: www.samihartsfield.wordpress.com.