Following Gonsalves v. Li (2015) 232 Cal.App.4th 1406, this decision holds that responses to requests for admission are not admissible evidence at trial. They are not statements of fact, but (if a denial) only the responding party’s refusal to concede the issue. The responses to RFAs represent litigation strategy that may be inconsistent with the evidence that the responding party or the person verifying the responses for it will present at trial. Here, the trial court erred in admitting the RFA responses and then compounded the error by hostilely cross-examining the witness who had signed the responses. Then the court made matters worse by allowing that witness to invoke the 5th Amendment to refuse to present any further testimony (rather than only refusing to testify as to matters that might incriminate her by showing her prior testimony or signature on the RFA responses was perjury), by forcing the witness to invoke the privilege in front of the jury (which would then draw the wrong inference of guilt), and the plaintiff then made full use of these errors throughout the trial and in particular in closing argument.
California Court of Appeal, First District, Division Two (Richman, J.); February 26, 2018; 2018 WL 1045220.