Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Tip On How To Handle Requests For Admissions

TIP:  You don't have to admit or deny any Request for Admission that calls for you to admit or deny a conclusion of law--rather, you can state an objection based upon the case below.

In the recent case of Estate of John W. Borst v. Edward Stover Sr. Testamentary Trust,  2011 WL 4963100 (Pa. Super. October 19, 2011, Donohue, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the proper use of Requests for Admissions in civil litigation matters.

In this matter, which arose out of a land dispute, one party failed to timely respond to Requests for Admissions submitted by the opposing party under Pa. R.C.P. 4014. As such, these Requests for Admissions were deemed admitted under Pennsylvania 4014(b).

The party that served the Requests for Admissions followed up with a Motion for Summary Judgment based upon the opposing party’s “admissions.” The trial court granted summary judgment and an appeal was filed.

On appeal, the Superior Court agreed that the Requests for Admissions submitted were beyond the permissible scope of Pa. R.C.P. 4014(a) in that they called for the responding party to admit matters that constituted legal conclusions.  The Court noted that these "admissions" should not have been considered by the trial court. This case therefore stands for the proposition that Requests for Admissions must call for matters of fact rather than legal opinions and conclusions of law.

The Court additionally stated that “Withdrawal of admissions should be granted where upholding the admissions would practically eliminate any presentation of the merits of the case; where withdrawal would prevent manifest injustice; and where the parties who obtain the admissions fail to prove that withdrawal would result in prejudice to that party.”

Finding that the Requests for Admissions at issue in this matter involved conclusions of law beyond the permissible scope of Pa. R.C.P. 4014, the Superior Court ruled that the trial court’s entry of a summary judgment based upon those “admissions” was improper.

Accordingly, any Requests for Admissions that can be read as calling for an admission of legalities or conclusions of law can be denied in the Response to the Requests for Admissions with a citation to this case.

The Opinion in Estate of John W. Borst can be viewed online HERE.

Source: “Case Digest, Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Tuesday November 1, 2011).

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