litigation discovery

Requests for Admissions as a Discovery Tool

Posted by David Adelstein on January 30, 2018
Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on Requests for Admissions as a Discovery Tool

Requests for Admissions are one of my favorite discovery tools in litigation. Requests for Admissions are designed to narrow the disputed facts by requiring the recipient of the request to admit or deny the requested fact. These should be served with the objective of having the recipient admit the requested fact.   If the recipient does admit the fact, then the fact is a stipulated fact – it does not need to be proved at trial because it is stipulated to.  

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.380(c) provides:

(c) Expenses on Failure to Admit. If a party fails to admit the genuineness of any document or the truth of any matter as requested under rule 1.370 and if the party requesting the admissions thereafter proves the genuineness of the document or the truth of the matter, the requesting party may file a motion for an order requiring the other party to pay the requesting party the reasonable expenses incurred in making that proof, which may include attorneys’ fees. The court shall issue such an order at the time a party requesting the admissions proves the genuineness of the document or the truth of the matter, upon motion by the requesting party, unless it finds that (1) the request was held objectionable pursuant to rule 1.370(a), (2) the admission sought was of no substantial importance, or (3) there was other good reason for the failure to admit.

Under this rule, if a recipient denies a request for admission and the requester proves the truth of the matter, the requester is entitled to expenses inclusive of attorney’s fees. You would think this rule is designed to motivate a party to truly admit a fact versus denying a fact to avoid the stipulation. But, not so fast…

In a recent case, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ward, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D252b (Fla. 1st DCA 2018), the court awarded the requester $981,116.23 in attorney’s fees and costs under this rule by proving the truth of the matter of the recipient’s denials to requests for admissions. The appellate court, however, reversed maintaining that if the recipient has a good reason to deny the request, such fees and costs cannot be awarded.  For instance, if the recipient denies a hotly contested fact in the case and is later proved wrong, fees and costs cannot be awarded under this rule because the recipient had a good reason to deny the request.

There really is not a bright line standard as to what constitutes a good reason to deny and what does not, potentially watering down the sanction for a party’s denial of a fact. Nevertheless, this rule is not designed to shift fees and costs to the recipient simply because the party does not stipulate to a contested fact.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Note on Discovery in Litigation

Posted by David Adelstein on June 19, 2015
Discovery, Evidence / Comments Off on Note on Discovery in Litigation

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Here is a quick note on discovery in litigation (e.g., document requests, depositions, interrogatories).

An objective of discovery is to discover information that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In other words, just because the discovery appears irrelevant does not necessarily mean that pursuing such discovery will not reasonably lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. By taking a more liberal approach to discovery, hopefully, some of the unfortunate gamesmanship that occurs during discovery is eliminated or reduced. In particular, parties should not be able to unilaterally dictate what they believe is relevant to another party’s claims or defenses. This would just result in parties potentially hiding information, concealing information, or not producing information under the pretext that such information is not relevant as determined by that party. Who wants this? Many times, disputes get resolved during discovery or after discovery runs its course as parties are able to better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case based upon another party’s analysis and theories supported by the information.

Now, just because there is a more liberal approach to pursuing discovery does not mean parties have carte blanche to discover everything or go on fishing expeditions. Discovery is not intended to be a tool to harass another party by seeking evidence / information that is categorically irrelevant to the dispute at-issue. Check out this article for an example of a court granting a writ of certiorari due to the irreparable harm of a plaintiff trying to pursue categorically irrelevant discovery that could not reasonably lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Moreover, when parties know that there is a dispute, they have an obligation not to spoil (destroy or alter) relevant, critical evidence, specifically with electronically stored information. By not taking steps to preserve evidence, a party could be subject to discovery sanctions, the dreadful adverse inference jury instruction, or in worst-case scenarios, the striking of pleadings. Check out this article for more information on spoliation of evidence including the dreadful adverse inference jury instruction (that no party wants!).

Discovery is crucial fact-finding process in litigation to discover evidence in your case. It is also a tool used to authenticate certain evidence and/or lay the foundation for certain evidence.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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