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Estate of Finley v. Beverly Health & Rehab. Servs., 933 So. 2d 1026 (Miss. Ct. App. 2006)

Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order granting the motion for summary judgment. “During discovery, the Appellees proposed a request for admissions “asking the plaintiff to admit or deny whether each individual caregiver acted within the standard of care.” Jordan responded to the request with non-responsive answers. After receiving Jordan’s response, the Appellees filed a motion asking the court to determine whether the responses were sufficient. After the court determined that the responses were not sufficient, it ordered Jordan to file an amended response. Jordan complied, and her amended responses were also found to be insufficient. Upon motion from the Appellees, Jordan’s second set of responses was deemed admitted for failure to sufficiently respond to the request.” Generally, it was Plaintiff’s position that the negligence was due to a pattern of neglect rather than neglect by any one person. The purpose of Rule 35, however, is to determine which facts are not in dispute; since Plaintiff did not deny the requests or provide a qualified denial by stating that the requests could not be admitted or denied for stated reasons, Plaintiff failed to comply with the rule. The trial court did not err by deeming the requests as admitted. The trial court did not err in denying a motion to withdraw the denial and amend the response, which Plaintiff did not submit until two weeks prior to trial. In reviewing the Plaintiffs’ theory of liability, the court concluded that the alleged injury could only be caused by lack of staff or by staff negligence. Plaintiff provided insufficient evidence of lack of staff, and the “admissions conclusively found that none of the caregivers assigned to Finley had breached the standard of care. No genuine issue of material fact regarding causation has been produced by Jordan. In the absence of causation and a breach of the standard of care, no action can be maintained against Banks or Sinclair.” Summary judgment was affirmed.

Note: Abusive Requests to Admit cannot be ignored since the consequences of having them deemed admitted are catastrophic. In each jurisdiction, the rule should be followed carefully, but in general, if the Defendant asks Plaintiff to admit a “theory” such as the standard of care was not breached, or admit that no negligence occurred, then unless the theory is not part of Plaintiff’s case, those requests should be denied or should be the subject of a qualified denial because they include too many sub-issues to be admitted. For example, admitting that a nurse did not breach the standard of care might also be an admission that she had no duty to report insufficient staff.

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