Requests for Admissions in Collections Lawsuits
Consumers are routinely sued to collect past due debts, including on credit card accounts and other consumer loans. These collection lawsuits, like many types of civil litigation, may include discovery, where parties exchange information. The request for admission is a particularly popular type of discovery in collections lawsuits, and consumers need to aware of a couple of aspects of how these requests function.
The basic purpose of a request for admission in civil litigation is to reduce the quantity of factual issues to be proven in a lawsuit to only those factual matters the parties disagree on. In collections litigation, the plaintiff uses a request for admission in an attempt to avoid having to produce evidence to prove their case. Consumer collections thrive on keeping costs down in the legal proceeding. The plaintiff doesn't have to produce evidence related to any fact that the defendant admits to in response to the request for admission, or any fact where an admission was sought and the defendant failed to timely respond.
This is the first important aspect of a request for admission: non-response is the same as an admission. Rule 36(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a "matter is admitted unless" the defendant serves a timely answer or objection on the plaintiff. The rule provides 30 days as the baseline window to respond, although that window can vary from case-to-case, and one's deadline to respond must be determined from the facts and circumstances of the particular case. A non-response deemed an admission can bind the defendant at summary judgment or trial, preventing the defendant from disputing the facts alleged by the plaintiff.
Another important aspect of requests for admission is that a denial in response to a request to admit is not without risk. Under Rule 37(c), a plaintiff who later proves such a denied fact may be able to obtain costs and attorney's fees associated with making that proof, should the court find no good reason for the denial. There's no generally applicable set of magic words to use in response to a request for admission that gives the plaintiff nothing and keeps everything for the defendant. Instead, the request requires a careful good faith response based on the defendant's strategy for contesting the lawsuit.
If you are faced with the decision of how to respond to a request for admission, our attorneys are available to provide either limited representation on the discovery matter, or full representation in defense of the lawsuit. Please contact us to arrange a free initial consultation.