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Today, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a memorandum decision, uncitable as authority under App. R. 65(D), in which the Court disagreed over the extent to which admissions could be used against a party in a motion for summary judgment in Clark v. Clark, Cause No. 01A02-1007-CT-759. While the decision itself cannot be used as precedent, the disagreement is informative.

In this case, a father and son traveled in a car together to the home of another person. When they arrived, the son got out of the car to help the father parallel park. The son positioned himself in front of his father's vehicle, between it and another vehicle parked in the alley. When the father's vehicle was in the appropriate position, the son signaled for the father to stop by putting his hand up. The father hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, and the son was pinned between his father's vehicle and the parked vehicle. The son sustained serious injuries to his leg. He brought suit against his father for his injuries and the father asserted the Indiana Guest Statute as an affirmative defense.

The Indiana Guest Statute provides that people with certain types of relationships, such as father-son, cannot sue each other for injuries arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle if the person is "in or upon" the vehicle at the time of the injuries. During the course of the litigation, the son sent requests for admissions to the father. Two of those requests and responses are reproduced below.


19. On September 5, 2007, at the time of the collision, Robert L. Clark, Jr. was not in the Chevrolet.

RESPONSE: At the moment of impact the plaintiff was not in the Chevrolet, whether he was a pedestrian is genuine issue for trial and therefore denied.

20. On September 5, 2007, at the time of the collision, Robert L. Clark, Jr. was not upon the Chevrolet.

RESPONSE: At the moment of impact the plaintiff was not upon the Chevrolet, whether he was a pedestrian is genuine issue for trial and therefore denied.

Based on those responses, the son moved for summary judgment. The father filed a cross-motion and the trial court granted the father's motion.

On appeal, the father argued that the admissions were not dispositive of whether the son was in or upon the vehicle at the time of his injuries because that is a legal conclusion that the Court would have to make after applying the law to the facts. The Court disagreed, holding that admissions can be directed to legal conclusions, not merely facts.

The dissent found the admissions ambiguous, because of the qualification about whether the son was a pedestrian and because there were questions concerning whether "in" and "upon" have the same generic meaning as they do as a legal term of art.

The lesson here is that requests for admissions can be powerful litigation tools and we lawyers must be careful when responding to them. You may find out that you have admitted something inadvertently.

Lesson:

1.Even a qualified response to a request for admission can count as an admission.

Brad A. Catlin
Price Waicukauski & Riley, LLC

http://www.indianalawupdate.com/entry/Indiana-Court-of-Appeals-Disagrees-Over-Effect-of-Admissions

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