Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Using Requests for Admissions Effectively

Great Requests for Admissions (called RFAs in my state) are works of art, finessed to corner your opponent into admitting facts, and potentially winning the case on admissions. They can also be used to win certain motions in limine, among other things, if they don't obviate pretrial resolution.

If your state follows general guidelines for RFAs, you are limited to a particular number of requests, making the choice of words all the more important. Also, making each RFA about one simple fact is vital. Compound requests are easily denied if any one part of the request isn't true.

Getting started with your draft is often the most difficult part for newer paralegals. Remember, the complaining party usually has the burden of proof (excluding successful Res Ipsa Loquitor jury instruction arguments), so if you can prove or disprove the allegations of the complaint, the case can be won or lost.  Here are some good starting places:

1.  Review the complaint and make each disputed allegation a single RFA.  Plaintiffs state the allegations in the affirmative. Defense states the allegations in the negative. Defense should also set out their affirmative defense and counterclaim allegations in the same way.

2.  If time periods are disputed, be sure to craft requests that require an answer to narrow the periods at issue. You can do this by asking whether certain events occurred during January 2011, and in the next request, ask the same for February 2011.

3.  Look at underlying facts that aren't specifically stated in the complaint, but that support the allegations of the complaint or your client's affirmative defenses. This is particularly useful when there are no records to support a particular fact. (For example, in a divorce case where the date of separation is at issue, ask the opposing part to admit that they moved out of the family home on a particular date.)

4.  Recite the applicability of statutes, rules or codes to your case. Ask the opposing party to admit that the plaintiff or defendant was required to follow _______ [rule/ statute/ code]. Do not make the mistake of asking whether a person followed the statute in the same RFA, do so in the next RFA.

Recently, I have had more success with RFAs than ever before. Some attorneys and pro se parties failed to respond timely, and I was granted summary judgment on my RFAs.

RFAs can be a very effective tool when used appropriately.  However, remember to stick to the facts of your cases and omit requests like "Admit that you're a dirtbag and my client will never collect on its inevitable judgment against you." You see, that's a compound question and likely to draw a denial because "never" refers to a future event that cannot be foreseen by the responder.

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