Discovery: What is a Request for Admission?

A Request for Admission asks a party to either admit or deny certain facts in order to identify undisputed facts and narrow the proof required at trial.  If the party fails to respond to the Request for Admission within the time required to respond, the party is automatically deemed to have admitted the facts contained in the request (a “deemed admission”).  Admissions are also commonly used to prove up the authenticity of documents, such as the contract between the parties.

The use of admissions at trial is in many ways much like the use of interrogatories and disclosures, but admissions also enjoy many distinct and important differences.  Like interrogatories and disclosures, they may only be served on parties to a lawsuit and may be used only against the party who made the admission.  However, unlike interrogatories and disclosures which can be used against a party in a subsequent lawsuit as a statement against interest, admissions may only be used in the proceeding in which the admissions were made.  Therefore, in response to a Request for Admission, a party may freely admit a fact in one lawsuit without putting himself in jeopardy of having that admission used against him in another.

As with interrogatories and disclosures, a party may not use his own self-serving admissions or denials as evidence at trial.  (In fact, a denial to a request for admission has no probative value and cannot be used by either party as evidence at trial.) Admissions are also generally read into evidence, but are also permitted to be marked and introduced into evidence as an exhibit. 

The fundamental difference between admissions and all other forms of discovery is in the conclusive and preclusive evidentiary value of the admissions. 

  • Conclusive value:  While interrogatory answers, disclosures and deposition answers may provide some competent evidence to prove a fact at trial, an admission conclusively proves the fact admitted to.
  • Preclusive value:  Whether a fact is voluntarily admitted or involuntarily deemed admitted, once the admission occurs, no other evidence will be permitted (over objection) to dispute the fact.  The fact is admitted as a matter of law; it is conclusively proved without further evidence.*

One need not offer the admission into evidence at trial in order to benefit from its effect.  As long as the admission has been filed in the court’s file, it is competent as conclusive proof.  But if evidence has been admitted to the contrary (because no objection was lodged when the contrary evidence was offered), the admission must be offered into evidence or it will have no probative value at all.

— Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

*If no objection is lodged and evidence to the contrary is admitted, then the status of the admission is down-graded from conclusive evidence to merely some evidence. Therefore, vigilance is required to protect both the preclusive and conclusive effect of an admission.

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