Sanctions Imposed On United States For Failure To Admit A Fact

A district judge in the District of Alaska has imposed Rule 37(c)(2) sanctions on the United States for failing to admit the standard of care in a tort case.

Afcan submitted a request to admit a standard of care.  The Government responded: “This is an expert question and no answer is required until expert reports are due.”

At trial, Afcan hired an expert witness to prove the standard of care and prevailed at trial.  The Court explained Rule 37(c)(2) as follows: “Federal Rule 37(c)(2) provides that “[i]f a party fails to admit what is requested under Rule 36 and if the requesting party later proves . . . the matter true, the requesting party may move that the party who failed to admit pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred in making that proof.”[4] The Rule instructs that “[t]he court must so order unless: (A) the request was held objectionable under Rule 36(a); (B) the admission sought was of no substantial importance; (C) the party failing to admit had a reasonable ground to believe that it might prevail on the matter; or (D) there was other good reason for the failure to admit.”

The district court criticized the United States for failing to admit the issue before trial and found that no exception applied and ordered sanctions.  The United States was required to pay legal fees and some of the plaintiff’s expert costs.  In sum, the district court believed that the plaintiff asked the United States to admit the correct standard of care and that the United States failed to do so – and had no good reason for this failure.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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