Legal Memorandum: Denial of a Fact Relating to a Claim

Issue: Whether a party’s denial of a fact or element relating to a claim or defense makes facts supporting or contradicting that fact or element relevant and discoverable.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Denial of a fact; Relevant and discoverable
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 32 F.2d 195; 495 F. Supp. 775; 544 F.2d 940; 40 F.2d 609; 186 F.2d 834
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1); Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(C), (D); Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(A), (C) & (D)
Date: 07/01/2012

Generally, when a party denies a fact or element relating to a claim or defense, facts supporting or contradicting that fact or element are relevant and discoverable.  See, e.g., AMW Material Testing, Inc. v. Town of Babylon, 215 F.R.D. 67 (E.D.N.Y. 2003) (plaintiffs claimed that they had fire prevention permit in place that the town renewed each year and town both issuing and renewing the permit; town directly placed in issue its protocols for issuing and renewing permits and correspondence and accompanying documentation which would typically be expected upon application, issuance or denial and renewal; thus, documents requested by company and individual were relevant and proper discovery materials). 

Conversely, when a party admits a fact or element relating to a claim or defense, the admission makes discovery on that fact or element unnecessary.  In fact, the federal rules requiring initial disclosures do not require disclosures relating to admitted facts.  Specifically, the advisory comments to the 1993 amendments, which added the initial-disclosure requirement to Rule 26, state: “The initial disclosure requirements of subparagraphs (A) and (B) are limited to identification of potential evidence ‘relevant to disputed facts alleged with particularity in the pleadings.’  There is no need for a party to identify potential evidence with respect to allegations that are admitted.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1) advisory committee note to 1993 amendment (emphasis added). 

Case-law authority on this point is sparse, but the principle has old roots, see Norton v. Cooper […]

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