Requests for admission under Rule 36 can be an effective tool in discovery to confirm essential information or to force the opposition to clarify an ambiguous position. The rule also carries the seemingly draconian provision that a matter is deemed admitted unless a timely (within 30 days) written answer or objection is served on the requesting party. That is, a failure to respond is treated under the rules as an admission, which renders the fact “conclusively established.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b).
However, it may not always be that simple. In Dillon v. U.S., a plaintiff served requests for admissions on the government, which inadvertently failed to respond. On the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, which depended in part on the admission, the defendant/government argued that it would have denied the requested admissions, if it had responded, and moved to withdraw the admission.