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Jennings v. Scotsman

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

June 12, 2018

Thomas Jennings, Plaintiff,
v.
Algeco Scotsman and Williams Scotsman, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Williams Scotman's motion to compel. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         This is a slip and fall case. Plaintiff alleges he fell down at in a mobile office unit in Lincolnville, South Carolina, owned by Defendants, because the wooden floorboards had rotted. In 1997, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to strong arm robbery of a Winn-Dixie supermarket. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, and actually served about four years. Plaintiff was deposed in this matter on January 24, 2018. He gave testimony regarding the circumstances of his guilty plea in 1997. Defendants doubt the veracity of his testimony, and subpoenaed records from the South Carolina Department of Corrections and from the Charleston Police Department. Defendants view the contents of those records as inconsistent with Plaintiff s deposition testimony. Essentially, Plaintiff testified that he entered the Winn-Dixie to rob an ATM inside the store, but records appear to indicate that Plaintiff tied up the manager, took his keys, and robbed the store. Defendants served requests to admit regarding those records, with an interlocking interrogatory to explain the basis for any denial and request to produce any documents related to a denial. Defendants view Plaintiffs responses as inadequate and Defendant Williams Scotsman has filed the present motion to compel an adequate response.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, "A party may serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to: (A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; and (B) the genuineness of any described documents." Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1). Rules 36(a)(4) and (5) provide as follows:

(4) Answer. If a matter is not admitted, the answer must specifically deny it or state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it. A denial must fairly respond to the substance of the matter; and when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of a matter, the answer must specify the part admitted and qualify or deny the rest. The answering party may assert lack of knowledge or information as a reason for failing to admit or deny only if the party states that it has made reasonably inquiry and that the information it knows or can readily obtain is insufficient to enable it to admit or deny.
(5) Objections. The grounds for objecting to a request must be stated. A party must not object solely on the ground that the request presents a genuine issue for trial.

Additionally, Rule 36(a)(6) allows a party who has served a request for admission to move the court "to determine the sufficiency of an answer or objection. Unless the court finds an objection justified, it must order that an answer be served."

         If a party declines to answer an interrogatory or request for production, the serving party "may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). An evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response, "must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4). "The scope and conduct of discovery are within the sound discretion of the district court." Columbus-Am. Discovery Grp. v. Atl. Mut. Ins. Co., 56 F.3d 556, 568 n.16 (4th Cir. 1995).

         III. Discussion

         Defendant moves the Court to address the sufficiency of the Plaintiffs responses to requests to admit numbers 7 (a-f), 9, 10, 11, 13 (a-f), 15, 16, 17 and 18.

         A. Request to admit number 7 (a-f)

         Plaintiff was asked to admit that certain South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC") records: (a) are a true and authentic copy of South Carolina Department of Correction records created for the incarceration of Plaintiff; (b) were made and kept in the ordinary course and scope of the SCDC's regular course of activity and/or the administration of criminal justice; (c) pertain to acts, events, observations, and discussions made at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with knowledge in the course of a regularly conducted activity and/or the administration of criminal justice; (d) are records generated by public officials and contain information the public officials had a duty to report; (e) are records generated by public officials and ...


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