A Request for Admissions is a discovery tool used in litigation to confirm areas that the parties agree on or lock a party into certain positions or facts. They are written in a yes or no format that does not allow for explanations. The most important thing about admissions is that there is a deadline by which they must be answered and if you fail to respond in a timely manner they are deemed admitted. This means that the answer to any question asked in them is assumed to be admitted or yes. This can have horrible consequences in your case as the other side may use these deemed admissions against you either at trial or at a summary judgment hearing.
The manner with which you handle deemed admissions depends on when you discover the issue. There are several different times that the problem may appear or it may never. The following are common times for deemed admissions to become an issue:
1. During Summary Judgment. A motion for summary judgment alleges that the moving party’s case has already been proved to the level that the court has no choice but to rule in favor of that party. Deemed admissions are an excellent basis for a motion for summary judgment because they are considered to be statements by the party that failed to respond that admit guilt or at least the elements that the moving party must prove in order to win the motion for summary judgment. Generally you find out that the other side is using deemed admissions as the basis for summary judgment when you receive the motion. The moving party is required to spell out exactly why they should win automatically and must mention that they are using the deemed admissions. Once you receive this motion the clock has started. You need to solve the problem before the hearing on the motion for summary judgment occurs. If necessary you may need to ask the court for a continuance on the motion for summary judgment to give you the time you need. You will need to file a motion to withdraw deemed admissions which is a request to the judge that the admissions be withdrawn as deemed and more time given to you to respond. Generally the judge will give you a very short time in which to file your response after withdrawing the deemed admissions.
2. In a hearing or at trial. It is not uncommon for the attorney who sent the requests for admissions to not mention that no response was made. They will then pull the deemed admissions out at a hearing or trial as a surprise. If this happens you should immediately request a continuance to address the admissions. If the judge refuses to grant the continuance, which is likely, your only option is to object to the inclusion of the deemed admissions and remind the judge and jury as often as possible that the the admissions are not actually yours but are the result of a legal technicality. This may sway the judge or jury into discounting the admissions, though they do not have to.
Chris McHam is the lead attorney for McHam Law, a Round Rock, Texas based law firm focusing on family law, criminal defense, probate matters and civil litigation in Travis County, Williamson County, Hays County and Bell County.