Civil Litigation Discovery

Are Requests for Admissions a Magic Bullet or Overblown?

466464237Requests for admission are one of the best techniques to create admissible evidence for summary judgment and trial. Every litigator should understand the advantages of using them but also their limitations.

Let’s start with the key advantages of requests for admission:

  • They’re relatively inexpensive. You can save time and expense by using approved Judicial Council forms. CCP §2033.710. See Judicial Council Form DISC-020.
  • They make the responding party investigate. The responding party must investigate facts not personally known before responding to the request. See Chodos v Superior Court (1963) 215 CA2d 318, 323.
  • They cut down on discovery costs. Requests for admission narrow factual issues so that subsequent discovery can be focused on areas of genuine dispute.
  • They help prepare for summary judgment. Requests for admission are an effective tool to obtain the facts necessary to prevail on a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication.
  • They reduce trial costs. Requests for admission can reduce trial costs by, e.g., eliminating the need to call witnesses at trial simply to authenticate documents, eliminating the need for proof at trial on a point covered by an admission because the admission has binding effect (CCP §2033.410(a)).
  • They can promote settlement. Requests for admission can reveal to the opposing party weaknesses in its case that can encourage movement toward settlement.
  • They provide possible sanctions at trial. You may be able to recover the reasonable expenses, including attorney fees, incurred in proving each fact or the genuineness of each document at trial if the opposing party unjustifiably failed to admit the genuineness of any document or the truth of any matter when requested to do so and you prove at trial that the document is genuine or the matter is true. CCP §2033.420(a).

Requests for admission sound like a great tool, right? They are. But there are also downsides:

  • Limited number. You’re limited to 35 requests for admission that don’t relate to the genuineness of documents. CCP §2033.030(a).
  • Responses may not be helpful. Don’t expect the opposing party to make admissions on key issues if there’s an arguable dispute about them. The opponent may respond that he or she can’t admit or deny because investigation and discovery aren’t yet complete or lacks sufficient “information and belief” and thus denies the request. CCP §2033.220.
  • Other discovery may be needed first. You won’t realize the full benefit of requests for admission if you use them too early in case. For example, it’s generally a good idea to wait until your own discovery allows you to identify facts, issues, or documents that are sham or should not be tried. Also, the opposing party is likely to give more complete responses in the later stages of discovery, when the opposing party’s own position is clearer.

What has your experience been with requests for admission? Has it ever cracked a case wide open for you or is it simply one of several useful tools in your belt? Let us know in the comments below.

Get step-by-step advice to help you get the most out of discovery in CEB’s Creating Your Discovery Plan. And for everything you need to know about requests for admission, turn to CEB’s Civil Discovery Practice, chapter 9. For help on deciding which discovery method to use and how to plan the sequence of discovery requests and demands, check out CEB’s Obtaining Discovery: Initiating and Responding to Discovery Procedures.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

3 replies on “Are Requests for Admissions a Magic Bullet or Overblown?”

It’s usually a mistake to view RFAs as a way to “crack the case wide open”. They are best used to clear up small issues that would otherwise cost money to pin down: admit that this is the whole agreement, admit that plaintiff was your employee, etc. I roll my eyes when I see junior attorneys serving me with ridiculously overbroad RFAs that of course I’m going to deny.

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