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Brown v. Overhead Door Corp.

October 16, 2008

RICHARD L. BROWN AND GUADALUPE TORRES, AS PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS OF PLAINTIFFS,
v.
OVERHEAD DOOR CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.
RICHARD BROWN TORRES, A MINOR,



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Deem Matter Admitted and to Compel Deposition of Schochet. This motion presents two issues to the Court: (1) whether Defendant's answer to Plaintiffs' Request to Admit is insufficient, and (2) whether Plaintiffs are entitled to conduct further discovery regarding Defendant's Second Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies in part and grants in part Plaintiffs' Motion.

II. Background

Plaintiffs allege that on May 19, 2005, a garage door designed by Defendant caused serious injuries to Richard Brown Torres, four years old at the time, when it closed down on and compressed him, and did not reverse. Complaint at 2--3. Plaintiffs filed a complaint on June 5, 2006. After extensive discovery, fact discovery closed on January 31, 2008. See Brown et al. v. Overhead Door Corp., No. 06 C 50107 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 4, 2008).

On February 25, 2008, both sides submitted motions for summary judgment.*fn1 While the motions for summary judgment were under advisement by the District Court, Plaintiffs served Defendant with their Second Request to Admit Facts on June 27, 2008. The Defendant responded on July 23, 2008. Plaintiffs' Motion to Deem Matter Admitted Pursuant to FRCP 36(a)(6) and to Compel Deposition of William Schochet at 1 [hereinafter Plaintiffs' Motion to Deem Matter Admitted].

On July 3, 2008, Defendant moved for leave to file a Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of punitive damages. The Court granted Defendant leave to file the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on July 14, 2008.

Defendant timely filed its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and its Memorandum in support of the Motion on July 16, 2008. Defendant has filed two affidavits in support of its Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment: one from Larry Dean Murphy and one from William Schochet. After obtaining an extension from the Court, Plaintiffs filed their response to Defendant's Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on August 27, 2008. The following day, Plaintiffs noticed Mr. Schochet's deposition to be taken on September 17, 2008. On September 5, 2008, Defendant informed Plaintiffs that it would not produce Mr. Schochet for the deposition. Defendant then submitted its Reply in support of its Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on September 9, 2008. On September 11, 2008, Plaintiffs filed this Motion.

III. Plaintiffs' Request to Admit

Plaintiffs argue that Defendant's answer to their Request to Admit is insufficient. Under Rule 36, "A party may serve on any other party a written request to admit . . . the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either[.]" Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1)(A). The party upon whom a request for admission is served must either object or answer the request. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4). A party may not object merely on the grounds that the request presents a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(5).

If the party does not object, its answer must either admit the matter, deny the matter, or "state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4). "The answering party may assert lack of knowledge or information as a reason for failing to admit or deny only if the party states that it has made reasonable inquiry and that the information it knows or can readily obtain is insufficient to enable it to admit or deny." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4).

Whether an inquiry is reasonable depends on the facts of the case. Hanley v. Como Inn, Inc., No. 99 C1486, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7130, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 28, 2005). To conduct a "reasonable inquiry," a party may need to consult third parties. Id. Generally, though, a responding party complies with Rule 36(a)(4) by consulting persons under its control. Id. at *5. "'Reasonable inquiry includes investigation and inquiry of any of defendant's officers, administrators, agents, employees, servants, enlisted or other personnel, who conceivably, but in realistic terms, may have information which may lead to or furnish the necessary and appropriate response.'" Taborn v. Unknown Officers, No. 00 C652, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1932, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 2001) (quoting T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Fund, Inc. v. Oppenheimer & Co., 174 F.R.D. 38, 42 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)). In some circumstances, Rule 36 requires a party to describe in its answer the reasonable inquiry in which it engaged that resulted in a lack of knowledge sufficient to admit or deny the matter. See Cada v. Costa Line, Inc., 95 F.R.D. 346, 347--48 (N.D. Ill. 1982); United States v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 83 F.R.D. 323, 333 (D.C.C. 1979).

If the requesting party believes the responding party to have answered insufficiently, it may move for the Court to rule on the answer's sufficiency. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(6). If the Court finds the answer insufficient, it may order the responding party to amend the answer. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(6). The Court may also simply order the matter admitted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(6).

In this case, Plaintiffs asked Defendant to admit, "To the extent that Richard Brown Torres has a diminished life expectancy, that diminished life expectancy was caused by the injuries he sustained on May 19, 2005." Plaintiff's Motion to Deem Matter Admitted at 1. On July ...


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