In Park v. Axelson, Williamowsky, Bender & Fishman, P.C., No. 1486 (Dec. 29, 2022)(unreported), the Appellate Court of Maryland held that a pro se litigant’s failure to timely respond to requests for admission on critical facts was an admission by operation of law.
Park involved a torturous procedural history that will not be recounted here. At bottom, the Axelson firm claimed an unpaid fee for legal services and Ms. Park responded with claims of inadequate representation. Summary judgment for the law firm was affirmed.
The law firm served requests for admission. Ms. Park asked for a 60-day extension. The firm offered 21-days. Ms. Park said she doubted that she could comply due to other commitments and “health conditions.” She then failed to comply.
The Appellate Court held that deemed admissions under Rule 2-424(b) are not discovery sanctions. Instead, they arise by operation of law. When Ms. Park failed to timely respond, the requests were conclusively admitted.
However, Ms. Park had moved to withdraw the admissions. Denial of that motion was also affirmed.
The Court distinguished a motion permitting withdrawal from one denying withdrawal. The former has a two-prong test: withdrawal is proper if it would facilitate adjudication on the merits and there is prejudice.
However, in reviewing a denial motion, the Court also considers culpability and the egregiousness of the conduct. Suffice it to say, the Court found plenty of that – “a pattern of belated conduct and failure to comply with discovery.”
 The Court wrote: “Implicit in Rule 2-424(d)[permitting withdrawal] is the requirement that, to be entitled to withdraw an admission, there must exist a substantial dispute concerning the admitted fact.’”
 The Court also held that the pro se litigant’s “information and belief” affidavit could not defeat summary judgment.