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New Albertsons, Inc. v. Superior Court

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three

December 10, 2008, Filed

B207661

Opinion

 [**460]  CROSKEY, Acting P. J.—This case arises from an injury suffered by plaintiff John Shanahan while shopping at a supermarket operated by New Albertsons, Inc. (Albertsons). He and his wife filed suit against Albertsons based on claims of negligence and premises liability. In this writ proceeding, Albertsons challenges the denial of its motion to withdraw an admission made in response to a request for admission and the imposition of evidence and issue sanctions for misuse of the discovery process. Albertsons had admitted that a photograph of the scene where Shanahan was found lying on the supermarket floor showed a bag of ice in the aisle. Albertsons contends its admission was mistaken  [***2] and plaintiffs would suffer no substantial prejudice if the admission were withdrawn, so the denial of its motion to withdraw was error. Albertsons also contends the trial court had no authority to impose the evidence and issue sanctions absent a failure to obey an order compelling discovery, and the evidence does not support the award of sanctions.

We conclude that any doubts in ruling on a motion to withdraw or amend an admission (Code Civ. Proc., § 2033.300) 2 must be resolved in favor of the moving party. The record here does not clearly establish that Albertsons's mistake in admitting the matter was inexcusable or show that the withdrawal of the admission would substantially prejudice the Shanahans,  [**461]  so the policy in favor of trial on the merits compels the conclusion that the motion to withdraw the admission should have been granted. We further conclude that the court had no statutory authority to impose the sanctions absent a failure to obey an order compelling discovery 3 and that the court's inherent powers to control the litigation do not justify the sanctions in these circumstances.

 [*1409] 

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168 Cal. App. 4th 1403 *; 86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 457 **; 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 2393 ***

NEW ALBERTSONS, INC., Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; JOHN SHANAHAN et al., Real Parties in Interest.

Subsequent History: Time for Granting or Denying Review Extended New Albertsons Inc. v. S.C. (Shanahan), 2009 Cal. LEXIS 2474 (Cal., Mar. 11, 2009)

Review denied by New Albertsons v. L.A. County Superior Court, 2009 Cal. LEXIS 3365 (Cal., Mar. 25, 2009)

Prior History:  [***1] Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC365496, Phrasel L. Shelton, Judge.

Disposition: Petition granted.

CORE TERMS

discovery, bag, photographs, sanctions, floor, trial court, aisle, recordings, circumstances, snack, inspection demand, video recording, request for admission, misuse, withdrawal, terminating sanctions, issue sanctions, documents, woman, discovery process, subdivision, destroyed, motion to withdraw, scene, merits, failure to obey, inadvertence, paramedics, motion to compel, misconduct

Civil Procedure, Methods of Discovery, Requests for Admissions, Effect of Admissions, Withdrawal of Admissions, Relief From Judgments, Excusable Mistakes & Neglect, General Overview, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Pretrial Judgments, Default & Default Judgments, Relief From Default, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Discovery & Disclosure, Disclosure, Sanctions, Weight & Sufficiency, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Authority to Adjudicate