Premature Requests for Admissions

In discovery, the most common tools used are interrogatories (written requests to be answered under oath), requests for production of documents and depositions (live testimony usually in person). Requests for admissions are another tool in discovery that often goes un-utilized/underutilized but can be quite useful.
As the name suggests, requests for admissions under Missouri Rules are essentially a list of questions sent to an opposing party that asks them to admit or deny the existence of a fact. They are black and white; therefore, the responding party often has a more difficult time objecting to a request if it is simply worded. Furthermore, if proper procedure is followed, and a party fails to timely respond, then the fact may be deemed automatically admitted and not subject to further dispute. Hence, there is strong incentive to respond in a timely manner.
Under Rule 59.01, requests for admissions may be served — without court permission — upon a defendant/respondent upon the expiration of 30 days after the earlier of the defendant/respondent entering appearance or being served with process. With court permission, a plaintiff can issue requests for admissions earlier.
What happens, then, if the requests for admissions are served prematurely and the opposing party fails to timely respond thereby triggering automatic admissions? Are the matters admitted? Or does the fact that they’re untimely make them void. That very issue was the key in a recently decided appellate decision Lane House Construction, Inc. v. Doris Ogrowski, No. ED99897, April 8, 2014 in the Eastern District if Missouri. In that case, the Court found that the plaintiff’s premature propounding of requests for admissions were invalid — it as if the plaintiff never propounded requests for admissions. Given how recently the case was decided, it is still possible that the decision may be modified further by the appellate court or even by the Missouri Supreme Court.

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