Florida's Request for Admission Rule: 150 Years on the Road to Inconsistency, Ineffectiveness and Appellate Nullification
Florida Coastal Law Review, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (Spring 2005)
76 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2015
Date Written: 2005
The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, applicable to most actions of a civil nature, are to "be construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action." Achievement of this laudable goal, however, is dependent "in the last analysis...upon the attitudes of judges and lawyers in approaching legal controversies and in employing and applying the rules." Most of the Rules are designed to generate pleadings or discovery, but few are designed to narrow or dispense with unwarranted litigation. Chief among the latter is Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.370, Requests for Admission. As drafted, Rule 1.370 appears to be an important part of the scheme designed to achieve the desired "just, speedy and inexpensive" determinations of actions. However, in the hands of Florida judges and lawyers this powerful tool has been (1) used with relative scarcity, (2) applied inconsistently and often in contravention of its own language, and (3) substantially rendered a nullity by Florida's District Courts of Appeal. This contradiction is evidenced initially in the fact that while both Florida and federal decisions may agree as to its purpose, there is disagreement on the basic issue of whether Rule 1.370 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 are even discovery rules. It is reasonable to believe that civil litigation counsel (1) keep current with appellate decisions in the area of civil procedure, (2) will spend their time and their clients' money only on litigation methods they believe are effective, and (3) would use admissions if they found them to be effective. In answering the question of why counsel do not use them, one need look no further than the treatment given admissions by Florida's District Courts of Appeal over the past several decades. Only the most hopeful civil litigator in Florida would find that Rule 1.370 has not been effectively nullified, or at least treated so inconsistently as to make its use in pre-trial practice of little value. Contingent upon the Florida Supreme Court revisiting its own admissions scheme and making the necessary corrections, whether through amending Rules 1.370 and 1.380 or through its opinions, or both, not just salvage but reinvigoration is possible. There is no question that such certainly is necessary, as the current scheme is in dire need of repair. Part I of the article provides the introduction. Part II breaks down the history of the Rules of Civil Procedure and how they have been applied in Florida court system over the years. Then Part III expands on how the courts continued application of the law, remains virtually unchanged since 1873. Part IV provides insight on how requests for admissions historically have been and remain small in number, and Part V illuminates of the Rule of Admissions is dancing on the line of nullification, making it “appear to have little value.” Part VI justifies how allowing fees and costs for a rule that is rarely invoked, appear to be extremely counterproductive. Part VII provides recommendations on how Florida can improve upon its Admissions rule. Finally, Part VIII concludes by recapping important factors made in the article.
Keywords: Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, Admissions, Rule of Admissions, 1.370, 1.380, Florida District Court of Appeal, evidence, sanctions, costs, 36, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36, Appeal, rules, legal controversy, nullification, federal decisions, litigation, money, 1873
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