What is a “request for admissions”?

A request for admissions, also known as a request to admit, is a document used in discovery to establish which issues are not in dispute in the case. The purpose of requests for admissions is to get rid of issues that both parties agree upon, so that both sides can save time, money, and energy at trial arguing only over the things they disagree on. Therefore, many requests for admissions are pretty obvious and boring. These include statements like “The defendant’s full name is John Quentin Public,” “The defendant lives at 123 Main Street, Blackacre,” or “The defendant was driving a blue Ford Mustang on the morning of October 1, 2010.” These types of requests are easy to admit and allow both parties to skip the work of proving them in court and get to the heart of the dispute.

Like interrogatories, requests for admission are made in writing and are often written as simple statements. Unlike interrogatories, however, requests for admissions are not open-ended questions seeking information; they are true/false statements. For instance, a set of interrogatories from an injured plaintiff to a defendant might open with the request: “State the full legal name of the defendant in this case.” The answer to this question will probably be the defendant’s name, address, and phone number. A request for admissions, on the other hand, will begin “The full legal name of the defendant in this case is Highly Dangerous Explosives, Incorporated.”

Instead of writing answers to the questions, the party responding to the requests for admissions must only mark each one “admit,” “deny,” or “neither admit nor deny.”  “Admit” indicates that the party answering the request for admissions agrees that the statement is true, while “deny” indicates that the party answering the request for admissions believes the statement is false. “Neither admit nor deny” is used when the party cannot say whether the information in the statement is true or not. This answer is usually accompanied by a brief explanation as to why the party can neither admit nor deny the information contained in the request.

A party answering a request for admissions may also object to any of the requests in the list. There are several reasons why a particular admission might be legally objectionable. For instance, the request might ask a party to admit or deny the truth of something that is inadmissible in court, like inadmissible hearsay.

A request might be objected to because the statement is so vague or confusing that the person answering can’t give a straightforward answer, or because it is a “trick” question. For instance, a request  for admission that read “As of October 1, 2010, the defendant had stopped stealing cars” might be objected to because the defendant had never stolen a car in the first place—but both an “admit” (“yes, I’ve stopped stealing cars”) answer or a “deny” (“no, I haven’t stopped stealing cars”) answer imply that the defendant is or was a car thief.

Since lists of requests for admissions can become quite long and seem tedious, attorneys sometimes try to take advantage of the flood of information by trying to sneak  in statements that can be fatal to the other party’s case. For instance, suppose that the plaintiff was crossing the street one morning when she was hit by the defendant in his car. In between the boring, not-disputed information like the plaintiff’s name and the date of the accident, the defendant’s attorney might slide in a statement like “The ‘walk’ sign was set to ‘Don’t Walk’ when the plaintiff stepped into the crosswalk on the morning of October 1, 2010.” If the plaintiff answering this request for admissions isn’t paying attention, she might mark this one “admit”—and thereby sink her case. For this reason, attorneys usually take care to check requests for admissions carefully before admitting to anything that might give the other side an automatic win.

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