Courts recognize that trials are costly affairs. It’s part of the reason so many cases are settled before reaching the trial phase. It’s also in the civil system why there is an established procedure – both at the state and federal level – for both parties to respond to a “request for admissions.”
The idea is if both sides agree to certain facts, court costs and time can be significantly reduced because then both sides don’t have to make an effort to prove or disprove undisputed facts.
Of course, one must be careful in submitting or responding to requests for admissions because they can have a substantial impact on the case. For example, a request for admissions in a car accident might have the plaintiff asking the defendant to concede liability. If he or she admits they were liable for the accident, the court could grant a summary judgment on that point, which means the only issues that would need to be litigated are causation and damages. In other words, the defendant admits he caused the crash, but denies that the crash caused plaintiffs injuries or that the injuries suffered are as severe as plaintiff asserts. Neither side needs to focus on proving or defending liability – it’s already been established.
It may seem then worthwhile to defendants to simply not respond to these requests or just deny them all outright no matter what. But this is actually not so. The court can make a determination – either before or after trial – that respondent failed to concede certain reasonable facts. For this, the other side can recover monetary damages. If the side that receives the request simply doesn’t respond, the judge can issue a sanction issuing a finding of favor on those facts to the other side.
In the recent case of Grace v. Mansourian, before the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District Division Three, an appeals court ruled plaintiffs are entitled to damages after a defendant refused to concede certain facts about the case, including his own liability and the reasonableness of treatment for plaintiff’s injuries.
According to court records, defendant ran a red light and struck plaintiff’s vehicle, causing him serious injury, hefty medical bills, ongoing surgeries and therapies, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. But defendant maintained he had not run a red light – he insisted he had a yellow light.
However, an eyewitness to the accident countered he had in fact run the red light. Officers cited him for failure to yield and evidence at the scene seemed to contradict his assertion. All of this was known prior to the civil trial, where plaintiff sought damages from defendant. As part of the procedure, plaintiff requested admission from defendant as to liability, causation of the crash, causation of injury and reasonableness of injury.
Defendant refused to all of it. Jurors sided with plaintiff, awarding more than $400,000 in damages.
Plaintiff then sought recovery of damages for having to burden the expense of proving certain facts that defendant should have conceded when asked. Trial court denied this request, but the appeals court reversed. The court noted that just because defendant “believed” he had a yellow light rather than a red light wasn’t grounds enough to deny liability when there was so much evidence to the contrary. No matter how much defendant believed his position, the fact that there was overwhelming evidence he was wrong made his belief unreasonable, and thus he owed a duty to concede those facts.
Therefore, the court ruled, plaintiffs are now free to pursue monetary damages on this point.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Grace v. Mansourian, Sept. 15, 2015, California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District Division Three
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