FSM SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as AHPW, Inc. v. FSM
10 FSM Intrm. 615 ( Pon. 2002)

[10 FSM Intrm. 615]

AHPW, INC.,
Plaintiff,

vs.

GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATED STATES
OF MICRONESIA and GOVERNMENT OF
THE STATE OF POHNPEI,
Defendants.
 
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1999-053
 
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM
 
Martin Yinug
Associate Justice
 
Decided: April 23, 2002
 
Amended: April 24, 2002
 
APPEARANCES:
 
For the Plaintiff:                           Martin Mix, Esq.
                                                      P.O. Box 143
                                                      Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
 
For the Defendant:                     Marstella E. Jack, Esq.
(Pohnpei)                                    Assistant Attorney General
                                                     Pohnpei Department of Justice
                                                     P.O. Box 1555
                                                     Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941

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HEADNOTES

Civil Procedure ) Admissions
     In answering requests for admission, it is proper, indeed required, for the party answering to admit facts which are already known to the requester if the answering party knows those facts to be true. That is the very purpose of requests for admission, to refine and reduce the number of disputed issues for trial. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).
 
Civil Procedure ) Admissions
     An answer to a request for admission that responds in a cavalier, flip manner: "If such a fact is known AHPW why should AHPW waste its time to propound this particular question?" is unacceptable, and inimical both to the letter and spirit of Rule 36. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).
 
[10 FSM Intrm. 616 ]
 
Civil Procedure ) Discovery
      Discovery is not a game to be played for anyone's amusement. It is a serious undertaking requiring serious, considered responses. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).
 
Civil Procedure ) Admissions
      Rule 36 requires specificity, a detailed explanation when a truthful answer cannot be framed, good faith, and fairness. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).
 
Civil Procedure ) Admissions
     A response which fails to admit or deny a proper request for admission does not comply with Rule 36(a)'s requirements if the answering party has not, in fact, made reasonable inquiry, or if information readily obtainable is sufficient to enable him to admit or deny the matter. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).
 
Civil Procedure ) Admissions
     When a party has responded to requests for admission with evasive answers, the court may give that party one more chance and order it to answer the requests for admission in a manner that conforms with the letter and spirit of Rule 36, and order that if that party fails to comply with the order, the requests for admission will be deemed admitted. AHPW, Inc. v. FSM, 10 FSM Intrm. 615, 617 (Pon. 2002).

* * * *

COURT'S OPINION

MARTIN YINUG, Associate Justice:

     There are two pending motions. On April 9, 2002, plaintiff AHPW filed a motion for order to show cause why defendant Pohnpei should not be held in contempt of this court's prior orders regarding document production. Pohnpei filed a response to the show cause motion on April 10, 2002. On April 11, 2002, AHPW filed a motion to determine sufficiency of answers to requests for admission. The time permitted for filing a response under Rule 6(d) of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure has elapsed. Pohnpei filed no response.

     As to the motion for order to show cause, Pohnpei will have until the close of business on Friday, May 3, 2002, to produce for inspection the documents from the Governor's office, C&RS, Marine Resources, Governor Pangelinan's office, and David Panuelo's office. Pohnpei will make the documents available under reasonable circumstances. Pohnpei is reminded that compliance with this court's orders is not optional. If Pohnpei fails to comply with this order by May 3, 2002, AHPW will notify the court on Monday, May 6, 2002. A telephonic show cause hearing will then be held on Wednesday, May 8, at 1:00 p.m. Yap time, or 2:00 p.m. Pohnpei time, with the parties initiating the call from the FSM Supreme Court in Palikir.

     As to the motion to determine the sufficiency of the answers to the requests to admit, Pohnpei has not responded. The court finds that good cause exists for granting the motion. Pohnpei's answers are evasive and ill-informed. For example the very first answer to which AHPW takes exception is as follows:

Request No. 4.: [Do you admit that] the quality of the pepper sold by AHPW, Inc. required purchasing from growers only mature peppercorns, but at a price well above world market prices?

[10 FSM Intrm. 617]

Answer: It is improper for the State to admit facts which are already known to AHPW Inc., if they did indeed buy mature peppercorns at a price above world market prices.

     The court is at pains to disabuse Pohnpei of the kind of thinking evidenced by this answer. It is proper, indeed required, for Pohnpei to admit facts which are already known to AHPW if the Pohnpei knows those facts to be true. That is the very purpose of requests for admission, to refine and reduce the number of disputed issues for trial.

     Another example of Pohnpei's evasiveness has to do with its response to request to admit number 34, which reads as follows: "Request No. 34: [Do you admit that] AHPW, Inc. told the State repeatedly, both orally and in writing that it needed trochus harvest to survive?"

     This is a straightforward proposition requiring a straightforward answer: Pohnpei either was, or was not, advised orally and in writing of the need for a trochus harvest. Instead, Pohnpei responds in a cavalier, flip manner: "If such a fact is known to AHPW why should AHPW waste its time to propound this particular question?"

     This answer is unacceptable, and inimical both to the letter and spirit of Rule 36 of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure. Discovery is not a game to be played for Pohnpei's, or anyone else's, amusement. It is a serious undertaking requiring serious, considered responses that conform with Rule 36 of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure. Pohnpei is reminded that "Rule 36 requires specificity, [a] detailed explanation when a truthful answer cannot be framed, good faith, and fairness." United States v. Kenealy, 646 F.2d 699, 703 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 941 (1981). In Kenealy, the court found that the appellants had responded to requests for admission by offering "opaque, generalized, and tardy denials." Id. Further, "a response which fails to admit or deny a proper request for admission does not comply with the requirements of Rule 36(a) if the answering party has not, in fact, made `reasonable inquiry,' or if information `readily obtainable' is sufficient to enable him to admit or deny the matter." Asea, Inc. v. Southern Pac. Transp. Co., 669 F.2d 1242, 1247 (9th Cir. 1981).

     The court trusts that it need not catalogue the deficiencies of the other requests to admit with which AHPW takes issue, but will go so far as to cite one additional example. "Request No. 20: [Do you admit that] the State purchased pepper without considering world market prices for pepper? Answer: The division of Agriculture purchased pepper at a certain cost."

     The evasiveness of this response speaks for itself. Beyond admitting that the division of Agriculture purchased pepper, the answer is meaningless.

     AHPW has requested that the objected-to responses stand admitted. AHPW makes a good case in this regard, because the objected-to answers are in fact amended answers. Pohnpei has already had two bites at the apple, so to speak. However, the court concludes that the better course here is to give Pohnpei yet one more chance to answer the requests for admission in a manner that conforms with the letter and spirit of Rule 36 of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure.

     Accordingly, AHPW's motion is granted to the extent that Pohnpei will file its amended answers to the requests to admit that are the subject of AHPW's motion on or before Friday, May 3, 2002. If Pohnpei fails to comply with this order by that time, AHPW's requests for admission which are the subject of its motion will be deemed admitted.

     A copy of this order will be hand delivered to Pohnpei's counsel, Mr. Joses Gallen, by the court's national justice ombudsman.

[10 FSM Intrm. 618]

      The question of the attorney fees incurred in the bringing of these two motions will be addressed at the time of trial.

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