United States District Court, Northern District of California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL
Now before the Court are Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s ("Wells Fargo") motions to compel responses to requests for admission, ECF No. 53 ("RFA Mot."), and to compel responses to Wells Fargo's first set of interrogatories, ECF No. 54 ("Interr. Mot."). Wells Fargo also seeks monetary sanctions. Both motions are fully briefed,  and the Court finds them suitable for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motions are GRANTED, and Wells Fargo's request for sanctions is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
This is a mortgage foreclosure case. Plaintiff Karthik Subramani alleges that Wells Fargo securitized his home loan in violation of the terms of a Pooling and Servicing Agreement. On October 7, 2014, Wells Fargo served upon Mr. Subramani its First Set of Requests for Admission and First Set of Interrogatories. Grewal Decl. 15 2. On November 10, 2014, Mr. Subramani served on Wells Fargo responses to both the interrogatories and the requests for admission. Id. 8181 5-6. The next day, counsel for Wells Fargo contacted counsel for Mr. Subramani to express Wells Fargo's concerns with Mr. Subramani's responses. Id. Ex. E. Mr. Subramani's attorney responded by asserting that the responses "answered the questions and were responsive." Id. Ex. F. Mr. Subramani's attorney refused to amend the answers but informed Wells Fargo that it had "the option of making a motion to compel with the Court for the relief you seek." Id. Wells Fargo now moves to compel.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorize party-initiated discovery of any evidence that is relevant to any party's claims or defenses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
A. Requests for Admission
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 provides that "[a] party may serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, 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). The same rule requires that "[i]f a matter is not admitted, the answer must specifically deny it or state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it." Fed R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4). Additionally, "[t]he 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." Id. If the requesting party believes an answer to be insufficient or an objection to be meritless, that party may move to determine the answer or objection's sufficiency. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a) (5) .
Wells Fargo asserts that Mr. Subramani's answers to requests for admission ("RFA") numbers 5, 8, and 9 were insufficient. RFA 5 asks Mr. Subramani to "Admit that YOU did not make payments on the LOAN to any entity other than WELLS FARGO." ECF No. 53-2 ("Grewal Decl. I") Ex. A. Mr. Subramani responded: "Plaintiff is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of RFA 5 and, on that basis, denies the RFA." This response is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not indicate, as required by Rule 36(a)(4), that Mr. Subramani made a reasonable inquiry before denying sufficient knowledge and information to respond. Second, as Wells Fargo points out, Mr. Subramani "certainly has personal knowledge of who he made payments to on the loan." RFA Mot. at 3. Mr. Subramani either needs to admit to this matter, specifically deny it, "or state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(4) (emphasis added). When the question asks for information that Mr. Subramani is very likely to have, Mr. Subramani must respond in much more detail and explain why he does not have that information. A bare assertion that he performed a reasonable inquiry and lacks information on this matter is insufficient; he must explain in detail why he cannot truthfully admit or deny this request for admission.
RFA number 8 asks Mr. Subramani to "Admit that WELLS FARGO never promised that the LOAN would not be SECURITIZED." Grewal Decl. I Ex. A. Mr. Subramani responded, "Plaintiff is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of RFA 8 and, on that basis, denies the RFA." Id. Ex. C. For the same reasons described above, Mr. Subramani's response is insufficient. In this case, the circumstances surrounding the securitization of the loan is critical. The Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") alleges that Wells Fargo transferred Mr. Subramani's mortgage loan to a securitization trust in violation of California law. ECF NO. 35 ("SAC") 818114-15. This RFA therefore requests admission of a matter about which Mr. Subramani is eminently likely to have information and which forms a crucial part of one of his claims against Defendants. Mr. Subramani must admit or deny the request, or explain in detail why he cannot do so.
Finally, RFA number 9 asks Mr. Subramani to "Admit that SECURITIZATION did not change the PAYMENT SCHEDULE for the LOAN." Mr. Subramani answered, "Plaintiff is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of RFA 9 and, on that basis, denies the RFA." Once again, and for the same reasons, this response is insufficient. Mr. Subramani must admit or deny the request, or explain in detail why he cannot do so. Wells Fargo's motion to compel is GRANTED with respect to request for admission numbers 5, 8, and 9.
Rule 33 permits a party to "serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(1). "Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath." Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). Rule 37 permits a party to move to compel an answer if a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33. Wells Fargo argues that Mr. ...