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Richard v. Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

July 10, 2013

RONELL RICHARD, as Special Administrator of the Estate of EDGAR RICHARD, JR., DECEASED, Plaintiff,
v.
SEDGWICK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants. Consolidated with No. 10-1042-MLB.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KAREN M. HUMPHREYS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion for a determination concerning the sufficiency of responses and objections by the "ConMed defendants" to plaintiff's requests for admission.[1] (Doc. 380.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Background

This is a civil rights case in which plaintiff claims defendants used excessive force and provided substandard medical care to an inmate in the Sedgwick County Detention Facility. Plaintiff alleges that on February 15, 2008, Edgar Richard, Jr., who had a history of serious mental illness, was severely beaten by Deputy Manuel Diaz, a Sedgwick County jail employee. Plaintiff seeks to recover damages for personal injuries which Richard suffered as a result of that beating.[2] Because the parties are familiar with the nature of this case and the details giving rise to the plaintiff's pending motion(s), the court's discussion is limited to the issues pertinent to the rulings which follow.

Richard's Motion for Determination Concerning the Sufficiency of ConMed's Responses and Objections to Richard's December 21, 2012 Requests for Admission (Doc. 380)

Richard served ConMed with Requests for Admission on December 21, 2012. ConMed timely responded on January 18, 2013. Richard objected to a number of ConMed's responses by letter to counsel dated January 30, 2013, to which ConMed responded by letter on February 1, 2013. On February 7, counsel for the parties participated in a conference to discuss the objections. Following that conference, ConMed provided amended responses. Richard requests a finding that ConMed's responses violate Fed.R.Civ.P. 36 and are therefore admitted, or that the court order ConMed to prepare amended responses. ConMed opposes the motion, arguing that its responses are appropriate or that Richard's requests should be stricken due to lack of relevance and inappropriateness.

Standards

This discovery dispute is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 36 which sets forth the standards for requests for admissions. The rule provides that parties "may serve on any other party a written request to admit... the truth of any matter within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to: (A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; and (B) the genuineness of any described documents." Requests for admission serve "two vital purposes, both of which are designed to reduce trial time. Admissions are sought, first to facilitate proof with respect to issues that cannot be eliminated from the case, and secondly, to narrow the issues by eliminating those than can be."[3] Admissions are "not to discover additional information concerning the subject of the request, but to force the opposing party to formally admit the truth of certain facts, thus allowing the requesting party to avoid potential problems of proof."[4]

Rule 36 further instructs parties on the proper procedure for answering requests for admission. The responding party may answer under Rule 36(a)(4), object under Rule 36(a)(5), or both. An answer must admit the truth, "specifically deny" or, if a party cannot admit or deny, the party must "state in detail why [it] cannot truthfully admit or deny" the request.[5] Any denial must "fairly respond to the substance of the matter and, when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only part of a matter, the answer must specify the part admitted and qualify or deny the rest."[6] When making an objection, the party must state the specific grounds for objecting.[7] If the party objects, it bears the burden of persuasion to justify its objection.[8]

Under Rule 36(a)(6), the party requesting admissions may ask that the court decide the sufficiency of any answers. The determination of sufficiency ultimately rests within the court's discretion.[9] When presented with a question of sufficiency, the court follows the process set forth by Rule 36(a)(6). First, the court must determine the validity of any objections. If the court determines that an objection is justified, no answer is required. If the objection is found to be improper or invalid, an answer must be provided.[10] When evaluating the sufficiency of an answer, the court considers the phrasing of the request itself.[11] If the court finds an answer to be insufficient, the matter is either deemed admitted or the court may order that an amended answer be served.[12]

With these standards in mind, the court next analyzes the requests and objections in question.

Requests for Admission at Issue

Richard seeks an order regarding the sufficiency of ConMed's responses to Requests for Admission Nos. 1-11 and 16-17.[13] ConMed answered a portion of the requests and objected to others. For ease of discussion, the court analyzes the ...


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