Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good Opinion on Requests for Admissions

Call me crazy, but I believe that trial should be about each side presenting their case within the limits of the Rules of Evidence. I tend to be very skeptical about what I call trial by exclusion, the use of procedural rules to prevent the other guy from putting on his evidence. It does not take much legal skill to win a case when the other guy has to stand there gagged and silent. That is why I was heartened to see a recent opinion out of the Texas Third Court of Appeals which struck down an improper request for admission. Lucas v. Clark, No. 03-10-00474-CV (Tex. App.--Austin, 6/15/11). You can find the opinion here.

Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may serve discovery requests together with the petition. In this case, the Plaintiff included a request for admission which stated:

Request for Admission 2: As a proximate result of your breaching the contract made the basis of this suit, the Plaintiffs have suffered consequential damages in an amount not less than ten million dollars.

The defendant did not answer the lawsuit or the requests for admissions. As a result, the Plaintiff requested a default judgment. The only evidence of damages offered was the deemed admission. The Court awarded damages of $10 million.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals (in an opinion written by Justice Henson and joined by Chief Justice Jones and Justice Goodwin) said not so fast.
The primary purpose of requests for admissions is to “simplify trials by eliminating matters about which there is no real controversy.” (citation omitted). They were never intended to be used as a demand upon a plaintiff or defendant to admit that he had no cause of action or ground of defense. Id. Courts have cautioned that litigants should not be allowed to use requests for admissions as a tool to trap their opposition. (citation omitted). The rule regarding requests for admissions “was designed, not as a trap to prevent the presentation of the truth in a full hearing but as a tool for the fair disposition of litigation with a minimum of delay.” (citation omitted). When a party uses deemed admissions to try to preclude presentation of the merits of a case, however, due process concerns may arise. Therefore, overly broad, merits-preclusive requests for admissions are improper and may not result in deemed admissions. (citations omitted).
Opinion, pp. 6-7.

As a result, the Court of Appeals found that the request for admission should not be given evidentiary effect and found that there was no evidence as to damages. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new hearing on damages.

This is a good opinion, indeed a courageous opinion. I applaud the Austin Court of Appeals for their ruling.

Here is a rebuttal to this post from James Jolly Clark, the plaintiff in the case. He sent this to me with the title "Sather's crap." These are Mr. Clark's words with no editing by me.

Call me crazy & you are wrong - Lucas was served as it was proven by the process server in testimonial deposition, under oath and the opportunity to file for a trial after Travis County sent him a letter telling him he had a judgment against him. He fully acknowledged he received that notification. In addition, he had the opportunity to file for a Bill Of Review. The deemed admissions outlined some of the losses. They were actually over $50 million, with a personal invested cash loss of over $1,000,000 and another $1,300,000 loss in assets. Was the Plaintiff supposed to go to Lucas's home and beg him to accept service? As a former banker, Lucas knew very well he was served and what he had to do to avoid a judgment. The law suit came about by his purposely, with greedy malice afore thought, reneging on a contact, trying to run Clark into bankruptcy, so he could steal Clark's company for 10¢ on the dollar from a trustee. We found that long before the suit was filed, he set up a corporation to take over the company. I called 4 attorneys looking for one to assist me in filing garnishments - 3 of the 4 had sued Lucas. (If that tells you anything.) Not only did Judge Diane Henson not speak to the 3 issues raised by Lucas in his appeal, she had to go way, way out in left field to manufacturer a fuzzy reason to negate settled law on deemed admissions in order to overturn this judgment. No where in the judgment did it mention lost profits which she said was the reason for her decision. It appears she personally decided a person should not get $10 million on a default judgment and didn't give a damn about the law. If it had been $1,000,000 I 'm sure the outcome would have been different. She was way off base, dead wrong and has added insult to my grievous financial injury, caused by Lucas. My only hope now is if the good Republican Supreme Court does not listen to this liberal Democrat and her manufactured musings, overturns her and affirms "Deemed Admissions" as settled law.

1 comment:

D. Todd Smith said...

Steve, if you're interested in a different perspective on this opinion, take a look at