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Untimely RFA responses allowed in Lemon Law suit

Where an automotive manufacturer who was sued for allegedly violating the Lemon Law failed to timely respond to requests for admissions, or RFAs, and only discovered the error when the vehicle owner moved for summary judgment, the court allowed the untimely responses because it favored resolution on the merits and there was no prejudice to the owner.


Victorio S. Rodriguez filed this action against Ford Motor Company under Virginia’s Lemon Law and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, alleging that Ford, by and through its dealership agent, Magic City Ford Lexington LLC, sold him a defective 2019 F250 pickup truck. Rodriguez has filed a motion for summary judgment.


On Nov. 9, 2022, Rodriguez’s counsel e-mailed Ford’s, attaching his requests for admission, or RFA. Ford did not respond to the RFAs within 30 days. Rodriguez argues in his motion that, by operation of Rule 36, Ford has admitted all facts necessary to entitle him to summary judgment on his Lemon Law claim. And it appears that, if the RFAs are all deemed admitted, Rodriguez is correct. His RFAs are wide-ranging, all-encompassing and trace the Lemon Law’s language to request admissions satisfying its essential statutory elements.

On Jan. 17, 2023, Ford filed its opposition to Rodriguez’s summary judgment motion, concomitantly requesting to withdraw its admissions. It explained that, when Rodriguez filed his motion, Ford realized its national counsel had made a calendaring error that resulted in the oversight. Attached to its opposition, Ford included its RFA responses, in which it denies Rodriguez’s essential factual assertions, and requested that its RFA responses replace its withdrawn admissions.

In determining whether to allow Ford to withdraw its late RFA responses and replace them with its Jan. 17, 2023, responses, the court must decide (1) whether it would promote the prosecution of the merits of the action and (2) whether it would prejudice Rodriguez in maintaining his Lemon Law claim on its merits.


The first factor — presentation of the merits — has the court consider whether the proposed amendments “will facilitate the development of the case in reaching the truth, as in those cases where a party’s admissions are inadvertently made.” Ultimately, the court agrees with Ford that “allowing these admissions … to stand ends the case based on a mere calendaring mistake.” Ford readily concedes that it missed its deadline to respond, but there is no evidence that it acted in bad faith in doing so or that its failure is attributable to anything other than an inadvertent administrative error.

Moreover, Ford has consistently denied the central allegations that Rodriguez seeks admitted by his RFAs. It first denied them in its answer. It then doubled down on its denials in its responses to Rodriguez’s interrogatories, which were received prior to Rodriguez’s making this motion. The issues covered in the RFA cut to the heart of the case, covering essentially every element necessary for Rodriguez to satisfy his Lemon Law claim, and they are clearly in dispute.


The second factor — whether admission withdrawal and RFA amendment will prejudice Rodriguez in maintaining his Lemon Law claim — has the court consider “the difficulty the party opposing the motion to withdraw will face as a result of the sudden need to obtain evidence to prove the matter it had previously relied upon as answered.”

Rodriguez’s reliance on deemed admissions in preparing the instant motion is not, by itself, sufficient to constitute the requisite prejudice. Nor is the fact that Rodriguez will now have to prove the contested facts to the trier of fact. And Rodriguez cannot show any discernible reliance on Ford’s admissions because Ford has vigorously denied the central allegations throughout the course of the litigation. Finally, Rodriguez has adequate time to formulate or adjust his trial strategy based on the responses, i.e., prepare to prove the essential elements of his Lemon Law claim.

Summary judgment

Stripping away the facts Rodriguez seeks to be deemed admitted by his RFAs, there are genuine material issues of fact under his Lemon Law claim. Because Rodriguez must prove some or all of them to prevail, because they remain disputed and because Rodriguez has relied solely on his RFAs in making his summary judgment motion, the court will deny Rodriguez’s motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment denied.

Rodriguez v. Ford Motor Co., Case No. 7:21-cv-00529, Jan. 31, 2023. WDVA at Roanoke (Cullen). VLW 023-3-034. 10 pp.

VLW 023-3-034