United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER ALLOWING THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF TO
WITHDRAW/AMEND RESPONSES TO REQUESTS FOR ADMISSIONS
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court, without oral argument, is Third-Party Plaintiff
Coastal-Carriers, LLC's (Coastal) Motion to Withdraw
Admission of Requests under FRCP 36(b), ECF No. 52, and
related motion to expedite, ECF No. 53. Coastal requests that
the Court allow it to withdraw its failure to timely deny
requests for admission and allow for the denials, which were
served late. The Court finds that permitting Coastal to
withdraw its deemed admissions will not prejudice Seaside and
will enable Coastal to present its claims on the merits.
Accordingly, the Court finds good cause to permit Coastal to
answer Seaside's requests for admissions.
case arises out of a 2002 agreement between Seaside and
Coastal. Under the agreement, Seaside would procure shipping
contracts for Coastal's benefit in exchange for a
commission on the contracts. The relationship went sour, and
Coastal terminated the agreement in March of 2017. Seaside
sued Coastal for breach of contract, alleging Coastal owes it
unpaid commissions and damages resulting from the alleged
breach of contract. Coastal countersued, seeking damages for,
among other things, $740, 000 in unpaid freight bills for
which Coastal alleges Seaside is liable under their 2002
case is currently in discovery. See ECF No. 27. On
September 11, 2017, Seaside served Coastal with discovery
requests including requests for admission. ECF No. 54 at 1.
Counsel for Coastal, Benjamin Stone, miscalculated the
deadline to respond to the discovery and failed to timely
respond. Id. at 2. Seaside's Counsel, Brian
Walker, contacted Mr. Stone on October 16, 2017, regarding
the delinquent discovery. ECF No. 54-2. Mr. Stone requested
an extension, and Mr. Walker agreed. Id. Mr. Walker
closed the email by stating: “Please get me the answers
to interrogatories and production requests by 10/23.”
October 25, 2017, Mr. Stone emailed Mr. Walker to ask for an
additional one-week extension. ECF No. 54-3. Mr. Walker
replied, “One more week is fine. Please get the answers
to the interrogatories and production requests and the
answers to the counterclaims and crossclaims to me by
11/2.” Id. Mr. Stone emailed Mr. Walker's
office the discovery responses, including the requests for
admission, on November 2, 2017. ECF No. 54-4.
November 22, 2017, Seaside filed a motion for summary
judgment. ECF No. 38. Seaside stated as an undisputed fact
that it acted properly under the contract with respect to the
uncollectible freight bills. ECF No. 41 at 5. In support of
this statement, it cited Mr. Walker's declaration in
which he attests “On September 11, 2017, my office for
Massingill sent to Coastal's attorney, Benjamin Stone,
Requests for Admission . . . Coastal did not answer
Massingill's Requests for Admission within thirty (30)
days, as required by FRCP 36(a)(3).” ECF No. 39 at 3.
Mr. Walker attached a copy of the requests for admission, but
did not include copies of his correspondence with Mr. Stone.
December 12, 2017, Mr. Stone called Mr. Walker to discuss the
apparent confusion. ECF No. 54 at 3. Mr. Walker refused to
accept Mr. Stone's denials to the requests for
admissions, maintaining they were deemed admitted due to
Coastal's untimely response. Id.
Rule of Civil Procedure 36(b) provides that a matter admitted
is “conclusively established unless the court, on
motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or
amended.” The Court may permit withdrawal or amendment
if (1) “it would promote the presentation of the merits
of the action, ” and (2) “the court is not
persuaded that it would prejudice the [nonmoving] party in
maintaining or defending on the merits.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
The Court finds good cause to permit Coastal to withdraw its
Coastal to respond to Seaside's requests for admissions
will promote presentation of the merits of the action.
Coastal's claims against Seaside are largely based on
Seaside's potential contractual liability for
uncollectable freight bills. Under the contract, Seaside is
liable for the uncollectable freight only if its error or
omission led to the uncollectable freight or if it failed to
secure a credit release. Seaside contends it did not commit
any act or omission triggering liability for the
uncollectable freight. In its request for admissions, Seaside
sought admissions from Coastal that Seaside acted properly
with respect to the uncollectable freight. Thus, if Seaside
were permitted to rely on Coastal's deemed admissions
going forward, it would effectively preclude the Court from
deciding Coastal's contract claims on the merits.
Conlon v. United States, 474 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir.
2007) (“The first half of the test in Rule 36(b) is
satisfied when upholding the admissions would practically
eliminate any presentation of the merits of the
Court also finds that permitting Coastal to respond to the
requests for admissions will not prejudice Seaside or its
claims. The prejudice inquiry focuses on the “prejudice
a nonmoving party would suffer at trial.” Id.
at 623. “Reliance on a deemed admission in preparing a
summary judgment motion does not constitute prejudice.”
Id. at 624. Seaside has been in possession of
Coastal's responses to its requests for admissions since
November 2, 2017. Accordingly, permitting Coastal to respond
to the requests for admissions poses no risk of unfair
surprise. Moreover, discovery in this case does not close
until March 2, 2018, and the deadline for ...