"Requests for Admissions"

In the case of Victalic Company v American Home Assurance Company the First District Court of Appeal made it very clear that denials to Requests for Admissions are inadmissible.   Here is the court’s reasoning starting at page 23 of the published opinion:

Gonsalves v. Li (2015) 232 Cal.App.4th 1406 (Gonsalves) involved an automobile accident. Plaintiff called defendant as an adverse witness and asked about his qualified denials of plaintiff’s RFAs that he was responsible for the accident. And in closing argument, plaintiff emphasized that the denials were evidence defendant refused to take responsibility for plaintiff’s injuries. (Id. at p. 1413.) The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff for $1,208,642.86. (Id. at p. 1411.) Our colleagues in Division Five reversed, holding it was error for the trial court to allow questions about RFAs.


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Recently I was contacted to help on a party’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Form Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions. In viewing opposing counsel’s responses to the discovery, I gazed upon the General Response and Objections preamble in absolute astonishment.  It read as follows:


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ANSWER:     A fictional document. A non-existent objection neither based in statutory authority nor found in case law. A statement by a party during the discovery phase that they will neither be held to the Code of Civil Procedure nor the rules of evidence.

In my years as a discovery referee, I have found that lawyers have gotten into the bad habit of inserting a preamble in their responses to interrogatories, requests for production and requests for admissions. These preambles often state the obvious as to what their rights are as responding parties. However, many times these preambles state general objections to the entirety of the propounded discovery and insert rights that are contrary to the obligations of the Discovery Act, the evidence code and current case law. Even though several interrogatories, requests for documents and request for admissions may be objectionable on the same ground they may not be objected to as a group. See Hogan and Weber, California Civil Discovery (2d. ed 2009) §51
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As every lawyer is aware, a party may propound more than 35 specially prepared interrogatories or requests for admissions simply by attaching a Declaration of Necessity pursuant to C.C.P. §2030.040 and C.C.P. §2033.040 stating the reasons why they need more. See C.C.P. §2030.050 and C.C.P. §2033.050. However, when you receive more than 35 specially prepared interrogatories or requests for admissions, you should ask yourself the question “IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?”
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Cost of proof sanctions are designed to compensate for unnecessary expenses resulting from proving matters unreasonably denied. You don’t have to win the lawsuit to be awarded these sanctions. Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2010), ¶8:1405 citing Smith v. Circle P Ranch Co., Inc. (1978) 87 CA3d, 267, 276. They way to win this motion is to set it up from the beginning.
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Requests for admissions may be used to (1) establish the truth of specified facts, (2) admit a legal conclusion, (3) determine a party’s opinion relating to a fact, (4) settle a matter in controversy, and (5) admit the genuineness of documents. See C.C.P. §2033.010; Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2010), ¶ 8:1288 – 8:1301.2; CEB California Civil Discovery Practice 4th Edition §§ 9:17 – 9:20. However that is all good and dandy, but how to write a Request for Admission in order to be effective evidence in a motion for summary judgment or at trial is difficult.
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If you are like most lawyers, you are using the typical discovery devices to gather up all your information–form interrogatories, special interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and of course the deposition schedule from Hell. However, requests for admissions are rarely in a party’s discovery plan. I suggest you take a closer look at CCP Section 2033.010 (pdf) et seq. Requests for admissions are wonderful, tricky little discovery devices that really help you set up your case. Let me explain why.
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Discovery motions are the banes of most attorneys’ existence and they are often relegated to the newbie in the office to prepare. Young associates as well as other attorneys struggle on what needs to be in the papers and exactly how to convince the court that they should win.

With the courts’ having budgetary problems and staff shortages, it is in your best interests to make it real clear to the court (1) what has happened; (2) what you want the court to do; and (3) why you are entitled to the discovery and sanctions in a succinct fashion.
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Not only are most objections garbage, we tend to recycle our garbage objections from one case to the next. Sometimes, we pick up other attorneys’ garbage objections and contribute to more litter. This is done over and over again without even thinking what it is doing to the environment of the litigation.

Garbage objections fuel the ire of opposing counsel. The “meet and confer” letter that is soon to follow is usually full of hostility and threats. Any amicable relationship you had hoped for with opposing counsel is on the cusp of being destroyed. More important, you are now costing your client more money in attorneys’ fees and possibly in settlement. So before you throw out the trash, look at these common objections and why they will be overruled:
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