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Climco Coils Co. v. Siemens Energy & Automation

March 28, 2006

CLIMCO COILS COMPANY, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SIEMENS ENERGY & AUTOMATION, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on Defendant's February 9, 2006 Motion for Deemed Admissions, to Extend Discovery to Depose Scott Selmon and Climco's Accountant, and for Sanctions. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

On or about December 13, 2005, Defendant served Plaintiff with twenty Requests for Admission. On January 4, 2006, the court ordered Plaintiff to respond to the Requests by January 25, 2006, and Plaintiff complied. On or about February 3, 2006, Plaintiff amended its responses. Unsatisfied with Plaintiff's subsequent responses and amendments, Defendant requests that the court deem its Requests admitted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a) and extend discovery for depositions. Plaintiff maintains that it has sufficiently responded to Defendant's Requests for Admission and asks that Defendant's Motion be denied.

II. Analysis

The court turns to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 to determine the sufficiency of Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's Requests for Admission. In this case, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of both admissions and denials in response to its Requests to Admit. Under Rule 36,*fn1 requests for admission should be simple and direct so that they can be readily admitted or denied. However, under the Rule, a responding party that cannot readily admit or deny a request may make an admission with a qualification or deny only part of a request, so long as the response fairly meets the substance of the requested admission.

Sometimes an admission may necessitate qualification when the request is technically true, but an explanation is needed to cure improper inferences. In such a case, the responding party may in "good faith" qualify their response, but in doing so must also state specifically what part of the request is true. Likewise, if a respondent seeks to deny only part of a request, the respondent must state specifically what part of the request is true, and deny only the remainder.

Defendant also challenges the Plaintiff's responses as improperly invoking its right to neither admit nor deny under Rule 36. Under the Rule, an "answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party states that the party has made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable by the party is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36.

When a challenge to sufficiency of responses is made under Rule 36, it is the party opposing the challenge that has the burden of persuasion to show that the response to the request is sufficient. Typically, the ability to prove sufficiency hinges on the specificity of the response; not the response's accuracy. A motion to determine sufficiency is not an appropriate vehicle to litigate the correctness of a response as Rule 36 does not permit the court to determine whether a response is supported by evidence before trial. If a party believes a response to a request to admit is incorrect, the appropriate remedy under Rule 26 is to prove the matter at trial, and then apply to the court for reasonable expenses, including reasonable attorney fees, in making that proof. Wanke v. Lynn's Transp. Co., 836 F.Supp. 587, 598 (N.D. Ind. 1993).

If after the court considers a challenge to the sufficiency of a response and decides an answer fails to comply with Rule 36 requirements, the court may deem the matter admitted or order that an amended answer be served. In addition, the court may defer ruling until the pre-trial conference.

Turning to the responses at issue in this case, the court finds a brief summary of the court's analysis as to each Request to Admit is warranted.

A. Request to Admit #1

Defendant asks Plaintiff to admit that: The documents marked as Exhibit A (CG 0005-0008) accurately reflect Climco sales by customer for the years 2000 through 2004 (with the customers' names redacted).

Plaintiff responds that:

Plaintiff denies the matters set forth in this Request. The admission requested is not accurate. Some of the lines shown on Exhibit A do not represent customers.

Defendant contests the sufficiency of Plaintiff's response because "Plaintiff fails to provide which lines 'do not represent customers' or which lines [Plaintiff] can admit 'accurately reflect [Plaintiff's] sales by customer.'" (Def.'s Mem., at 8).

Plaintiff states that its denial sufficiently specified why it believed the Request was inaccurate. However, Plaintiff also seeks leave to amend its Response if the court finds that Plaintiff has not been adequately specific. (Pl.'s Resp., at 3).

This court finds that Plaintiff's response is insufficient. "Some of the lines shown on Exhibit A do not represent customers" fails to provide Defendant information it is entitled to under Rule 36. Plaintiff is given until April 5, 2006 to amend its answer to state specifically what part of the Request is true, denying only the remainder.

B. Request to Admit #2

Defendant asks Plaintiff to admit that: Clifton Gunderson, LLP prepared financial statements and tax returns for Climco ...


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