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Irish v. Fowler

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 4, 2019

BRITTANY IRISH, individually and as personal representative of the estate of KYLE HEWITT, deceased, and KIMBERLY IRISH, Plaintiffs,
DETECTIVE JASON FOWLER, et al. Defendants.



         Concluding that the amendment of a response to a request for admission would promote the presentation of the merits of the action and that there is no suggestion of prejudice from the amendment, the Court grants a plaintiff's motion to amend her response to a request for admission.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 10, 2015, the Plaintiffs initiated this civil action against the state of Maine and several state police officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging under various legal theories that the Defendants were legally responsible for a series of tragic events in 2015 leading to the death of Brittany Irish's boyfriend, Kyle Hewitt, the shooting of Kimberly Irish, Brittany Irish's mother, and the kidnapping of Brittany Irish. Compl. (ECF No. 1). At the time the Complaint was filed, the Plaintiffs were represented by Attorney David Van Dyke. Id. On February 28, 2018, however, Attorney Van Dyke passed away unexpectedly and Attorney Scott J. Lynch inherited Attorney Van Dyke's caseload of eighty-nine cases, including this civil action. Pl.'s Mot. to Am. Resp. to Admissions at 1 (ECF No. 71) (Pl.'s Mot.). Attorney Lynch entered his appearance on behalf of the Plaintiffs on March 14, 2018. Notice of Appearance (ECF No. 47). On March 21, 2018, the Magistrate Judge held a conference to discuss the future course of the case and extended a number of the scheduling deadlines. Report of Tel. Conf. and Second Am. Scheduling Order (ECF No. 52) (Second Am. Scheduling Order). The Plaintiffs' deadline for designation of expert witnesses, for example, was extended from October 31, 2017 to July 2, 2018. Compare Scheduling Order at 2 (ECF No. 25), with Second Am. Scheduling Order at 1.

         On May 8, 2018, the Defendants propounded a request for admissions, consisting of twenty-eight separately stated questions. Id. Attorney Lynch represents in the motion that when the Defendants filed their May 8, 2019 requests for admission, he had not met the Plaintiffs, had not reviewed the one-terabyte hard drive of discovery provided by the state of Maine, and had not reviewed the 5, 000-plus pages of paper discovery that Attorney Van Dyke had received, reorganized, and tabulated. Id. Brittany Irish signed the responses to the requests for admission on May 30, 2018. Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. to Am Resp. to Reqs. for Admissions (Defs.' Opp'n), Attach. 1, Pl. Brittany Irish's Resp. to Def.'s First Req. for Admissions at 4 (ECF No. 73) (Irish Resp. to Req. for Admissions).

One response is the subject of the Plaintiff's motion:
27. When Anthony Lord received a voice mail message from Detective Perkins on July 16, 2015, he believed the message related to the death of his son.

         Pl.'s Mot. at 2; Pl.'s Resp. to Req. for Admissions at 4. Ms. Irish seeks to clarify her response as follows:

RESPONSE : Plaintiff Brittany Irish admits that Anthony Lord stated in an interview with detectives that he believed the message from Detective Perkins related to the death of his son. Plaintiff Brittany Irish does not know whether Anthony Lord actually believed that to be true and, therefore, denies the same and leaves the Defendants to their proof.

Pl.'s Mot. at 2. The Defendants object. Defs.' Opp'n at 1-5.


         A. The Plaintiff's Position

         Quoting Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(b), the Plaintiff acknowledges that there is a “two-part test to determine whether it is reasonable and appropriate for the court to grant relief to a party requesting to withdraw or amend discovery admissions.” Pl.'s Mot. at 3. The first is whether it would “promote the presentation of the merits of the action”, and the second is whether it would “prejudice the requesting party in maintaining or defending the action on the merits.” Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b). Regarding the first issue, the Plaintiff emphasizes the Court's discretion in determining whether to permit withdrawal or amendment of admissions. Id. at 3-4. The Plaintiff states that her initial response is “manifestly inconsistent with the position of Brittany Irish in this law suit.” Id. at 4. She also stresses that she filed the motion before the dispositive motion deadlines had lapsed. Id. She attributes her initial response to three things: (1) Attorney Van Dyke's untimely death, (2) the volume of material new counsel confronted, and (3) new counsel's failure to appreciate the nuance of what the term “believed” meant in the context of this admission. Id. at 5. Regarding the second prong, the Plaintiff argues that the Defendants will not be prejudiced in the way that concept is applied in this context. Id. at 5-6.

         B. The ...

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