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DTCI: Indiana Trial Rule 6(E): A fickle savior on filing deadlines?

January 23, 2019

dtci-maiers-charlesIt’s 2 o’clock on a random Wednesday morning, and you just woke up realizing you failed to respond to requests for admissions that were due yesterday. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “D’Oh!” Not to fear, because Indiana Trial Rule 6(E) is your savior! Or is it?

Under Rule 6(E), whenever you can or must respond to what someone else in the case did, you generally have an additional three days to do it, so long as you received notice by mail of the “thing” the other party to the case did. However, this additional three days can be a fickle savior. Sure, you had 30 days from issuance of the RFAs to respond, but what if you got an extension from the court of an extra 30 days? Do you get the three-day mailing grace then?

In a case with a considerably more interesting fact pattern than the legal issue would suggest, the Indiana Court of Appeals answered this question in the matter of Harkins v. Westmeyer (2018 WL 6441621). In that case, the plaintiff below, Harkins, was served with requests for admissions. He then requested an additional 45 days to respond to them, and the judge below issued an order stating the responses were due Sept. 1, 2016.

Harkins, pro se, served his responses to requests for admissions five days late, on Sept. 6. The defendants below moved for summary judgment based on the plaintiff’s lack of response to RFAs. Summary judgment was granted, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued he was entitled to serve his responses to requests for admission on Sept. 6 because Rule 6(E) gave him three extra days, to Sept. 4, a Sunday, and Sept. 5 was the Labor Day holiday, which is not counted per Rule 6(A). According to Harkins, his responses were timely served on Sept. 6.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that not all deadlines triggered by a court order are entitled to the additional three days granted by Rule 6(E). Rather, only those deadlines that are triggered by service or notice are entitled to the extension. So, when the defendants in Westmeyer initially served RFAs on Harkins by mail, he was entitled to three extra days to respond because the deadline was triggered by service of the RFAs. Contrarily, following the court’s order granting an extension until a certain date, he was not entitled to three extra days.

In sum, litigators will get an additional three days to file responses when the deadlines are triggered by service of a pleading on them; that is, discovery requests, summary judgment motions and so forth. On the other hand, when deadlines are triggered by the date of an order (i.e., “Plaintiff shall respond within ten (10) days of the date of this Order”) Rule 6(E) has no application. “Stated differently, there are essentially two requirements for the three-day extension to apply. First, the time period for a filing must be triggered by service of a paper. Second, service to the individual must be completed by mail.” Westmeyer, ¶ 35.

Keeping the calendar straight — and properly applying Rule 6 — doesn’t guarantee that you’ll sleep through the night. However, it certainly helps to eliminate some of the clutter than can overtake your life.•

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• Mr. Maiers is an associate in the Indianapolis office of Due Doyle Fanning & Alderfer and a member of DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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