Requests for admissions of facts (RFAs) are designed to streamline the admission of evidence at trial. They are an effective and cost-effective means to achieve the pretrial discovery. Now parties may stop using RFAs, as a decision issued today dramatically eased their use against noncomplying parties.
In Terry Swanson v. State of Texas and County of Travis, a female process server was horribly mauled by six dogs as she attempted to serve papers and was killed. The owner was sued sos the dogs could be euthanatized, as required by state law. After the defendant filed incomplete responses to the RFAs six days late, the state and county filed a motion for summary judgment based upon his failure to respond by the deadline.
However Swanson claimed that (1) the caretaker of the dogs, the only person who could admit or deny the facts, had been injured and (2) his attorney practiced criminal defense and was not familiar with the civil rules. The trial court rejected these flimsy excuses, ordered that all the RFAs had been admitted, and granted summary judgment.
The appellate court reversed, ruling that the trial court abused its discretion in reaching its conclusion. The court held that even a slight excuse will suffice, especially if delay or prejudice to the opposing party will not result. Otherwise, the court found that honest mistakes could lead to inequitable results.
What is a Request for Admission?
Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedures, one party may serve the other with up to 15 written questions focused on matters that are not in dispute. The questions allow the parties to establish basic facts without having to present evidence and testimony in a formal court proceeding. Continue reading