• Illinois Supreme Court Amends Valuable Products Litigation Discovery Tool
  • February 23, 2011 | Author: Lyndon M. Flosi
  • Law Firm: Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP - Chicago Office
  • In most litigation in Illinois, including products liability matters, requests to admit under Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 216 are important pretrial discovery tools. Rule 216 provides that any litigant may issue and serve upon another party a request to admit the truth of any relevant fact, or the genuineness of any relevant document. The fact or genuineness of documents are deemed admitted under this rule unless the party who is served responds within 28 days either by a sworn statement that specifically denies the request or sets forth in detail the reasons why they cannot be truthfully admitted or denied, or that provides written objections. Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 219(b) allows for courts to award expenses and attorneys’ fees where a party has wrongfully denied a request to admit.

    A recent decision by the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, supports judicial enforcement under Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 219(b). McGrath v. Botsford, No. 2-09-0235 (2nd Dist. Nov. 5, 2010). Defendant served plaintiff with requests for admissions of fact in October of 2003. The requests went unanswered. For unknown reasons, defendant waited until March of 2004 to move the court to have the subject facts deemed admitted. After the court permitted plaintiff to file late responses, the requests to admit were "denied." Plaintiff later admitted that one of his denials was false and could not explain why he had denied the remaining requests. The trial court ultimately entered judgment in defendant’s favor on all claims. Defendant moved for an award of reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees under Rule 219(b) for the alleged wrongful denials. The trial court denied the motion.

    The appellate court reversed, determining that the trial court had committed error as a matter of law by refusing to grant the motion for expenses unless defendant could show that plaintiff’s denials were "almost an intent to obstruct" or "an attempt to make someone jump through hoops." The appellate court found that neither Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 219(b) nor Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 216 provided any basis for imposing such a requirement. This decision shows a judicial intent to treat requests to admit as valuable discovery tools which cannot be summarily denied or objected to without reasonable basis.

    Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 216 was recently amended by adding subparagraphs (f) and (g), which limit the number of requests to admit and also require that requests to admit have the following legend placed prominently on the first page, in 12-point or larger boldface type:

    "WARNING: if you fail to serve the response required by Rule 216 within 28 days after you are served with this paper, all the facts set forth in the request will be deemed true and all the documents described in the request will be deemed genuine."

    This amendment went into effect January 1, 2011. Therefore, all future requests to admit should include the above warning language.