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Rodriguez v. United States

December 22, 2008

OFELIA RODRIGUEZ, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jan M. Adler U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM RESPONSES AUTOMATICALLY DEEMED ADMITTED [Docs. 41, 42]

Plaintiffs Ofelia Rodriguez, Myra Ponce, Ismael Martinez and Kimberline Martinez (hereinafter collectively "Plaintiffs") have timely filed a Motion for Relief from Responses Automatically Deemed Admitted. Defendant United States of America (hereinafter "the Government") opposes. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs' motion.

BACKGROUND

On or about July 15, 2008, the Government served Requests for Admissions upon Plaintiffs. Def.'s Ex. 1. As of September 15, 2008, Plaintiffs had not responded, and the Government served a Notice of Deemed Admissions in which it indicated that the requests for admissions were deemed admitted by virtue of Plaintiffs' failure to respond thereto. Def.'s Ex. 2. Plaintiffs state that they "inadvertently neglected to send out their responses and denials" to the requests, and that they did not realize this until the Government's counsel advised their counsel of this fact. Pls.' Mem. at 3; Barraza Decl., ¶ 7. Plaintiffs state that they immediately thereafter served responses to the requests. Pls.' Mem. at 3; Barraza Decl., ¶ 8; Pls.' Lodgment of Exhibits, Ex. B. Plaintiffs now seek relief from the deemed admissions.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, applicable to requests for admission, states that "[a] matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3). Any matter admitted under Rule 36 is "conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b). "[T]he court may permit withdrawal or amendment if it would promote the presentation of the merits of the action and if the court is not persuaded that it would prejudice the requesting party in maintaining or defending the action on the merits." Id.

"The first prong of this test... essentially asks if allowing the withdrawal will aid in the resolution of the case...." Gallegos v. City of Los Angeles, 308 F.3d 987, 993 (9th Cir. 2002). This prong is satisfied when "upholding the admissions would practically eliminate any presentation of the merits of the case." Conlon v. United States, 474 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 2007), citing Hadley v. United States, 45 F.3d 1345, 1348 (9th Cir. 1995). This prong is also satisfied when amendment or withdrawal of the admissions would "facilitate a presentation of the merits" of the case. Hadley, 45 F.3d at 1348.*fn1

The second half of the test, the prejudice component, requires "not simply that the party who obtained the admission will now have to convince the factfinder of its truth. Rather, it relates to the difficulty a party may face in proving its case, e.g., caused by the unavailability of key witnesses, because of the sudden need to obtain evidence with respect to the questions previously deemed admitted." Id. (citation and quotations omitted). The party relying on the deemed admission has the burden of establishing that withdrawal or amendment of the admission would prejudice the party's case. Id.

DISCUSSION

In their September 16, 2008 responses to the Government's requests for admissions (hereinafter "Plaintiffs' September 16, 2008 responses"), Plaintiffs expressly admitted the matters set forth in Request Nos. 1, 3, 5, 14 and 15. Pls.' Lodgment of Exhibits, Ex. B. Although the responses were untimely, the resultant effect is that Plaintiffs presently challenge only those requests not already expressly admitted by them, i.e., Request Nos. 2, 4, 6-7, 8-13 and 16.

A. Presentation of the Merits

1. Request Nos. 2 and 4

Request Nos. 2 and 4 concern the nature of the relationship between Plaintiff Myra Ponce and the decedent, Guillermo Martinez Rodriguez. Request No. 2 seeks the following admission:

Guillermo Martinez Rodriguez and Myra Ponce were not formally married in accordance with the law of the ...


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