With requests for admission, you can take an evidence shortcut by getting the admission or denial of (CCP §2033.010):
- The genuineness of any relevant document specified in the request;
- The truth of any specified relevant matters of fact (even a matter clearly in controversy);
- Opinion relating to fact; or
- The application of law to fact.
Of course, requests for admission aren’t magic bullets: They may be directed only to parties; you get only 35 of them (if they don’t relate to the genuineness of documents); and the opposing party is unlikely to make admissions on key issues if there’s an arguable dispute about them. See CCP §§2033.010, 2033.030.
You won’t realize the full benefit of requests for admission if you use them too early in case. It’s generally a good idea to wait until your own discovery allows you to identify facts, issues, or documents that are sham or shouldn’t be tried. And the opposing party is likely to give more complete responses in the later stages of discovery, when their own position is clearer.
Here are five tips for making the most of your requests for admission:
- Focus on key undisputed facts. Focus on the key material facts in the case that your opponent can’t genuinely dispute. For example, defense counsel in a contract case involving the failure to pay should serve requests for admission to establish that the plaintiff never delivered the goods or delivered defective goods.
- Be clear. Draft your requests for admission so they are clear, precise, and unambiguous. This may deter your opponent from objecting on the grounds that the requests are vague, ambiguous, and overbroad.
- Avoid definitions. Although the Code of Civil Procedure allows you to define terms, try to avoid definitions in request for admission because they often create ambiguities. In addition, using definitions in the introduction of a request for admission may make it difficult to use the admission at trial.
- Time them carefully. Consider serving requests for admission early in the litigation to evaluate weaknesses in the opposing party’s case if you want to try to achieve an early settlement or to eliminate undisputed facts and issues. Serve them during the case, e.g., to prepare for a summary judgment motion, to determine a party’s opinion on a fact, to lock in testimony. Serve them close to the discovery cutoff date so that the opposing party will have difficulty denying the admission based on incomplete investigation or lack of knowledge.
- Avoid numerical limitation problems. Think about whether the request is likely to result in an admission and if not, leave it out. Consider not using your entire quota of 35 in the first set; save some for later use. Because the number of requests that relate to the genuineness of documents is limitless, draft your requests so that requests on facts and requests on the genuineness of documents are clearly distinguished from each other.
For everything you need to know about requests for admission, turn to CEB’s Civil Discovery Practice, chapter 9. And get step-by-step advice to help you get the most out of discovery in CEB’s Creating Your Discovery Plan.
Related CEBblog™ posts:
- 7 Rules for Drafting Interrogatories
- Eeny, Meeny…Who Should I Depose?
- Mining for Gold in Medical Records: Five Tips for Defense Counsel
- Calendaring Your Discovery Plan
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