Voluntary and knowing concessions of fact made by a party during judicial proceedings, such as statements contained in pleadings, stipulations, depositions, or testimony, responses to requests for admissions and counsel’s statements to the court are termed “judicial admissions.”110.2 Such statements by a party in court or by a party’s counsel may be introduced as binding admissions with respect to any of the facts stated, but not as to legal principles or theories.111 Absent an amendment to the pleadings, factual allegations admitted in an answer are deemed to have been conclusively established for the purpose of final judgment.112 However, a court may, in its discretion, relieve a party of the binding effect of such an admission.112.1
Admissions in pleadings are also admissible in other proceedings, although they are not conclusive, even where the pleadings have been superseded by amendment or have been withdrawn or dismissed.113 The scope of a judicial admission by counsel is restricted to unequivocal statements as to matters of fact which otherwise would not require evidentiary proof; it does not extend to counsel’s statement of his conception of the legal theory of a case, i.e., legal opinion or conclusion.113.1
110.2. Merritt v. United Parcel Service, 856 A.2d 1196, 1201 (Del. 2008).
111. Merritt v. United Parcel Service, 856 A.2d 1196, 1201 (Del. 2008); Levinson v. Delaware Compensation Rating Bureau, Inc., 616 A.2d 1182, 1186 (Del. 1992); Blinder, Robinson & Co. v. Bruton, 552 A.2d 466, 474 (Del. 1989); Godwin v. State, 74 A. 1101, 1103 (Del. 1910).
112. Wilmington Savings Fund Society v. Tucker, C.A. No. 7977, slip op. at 4, Hartnett, V.C. (Del. Ch. Mar. 13, 1986); Debbs v. Berman, C.A. No. 7973, slip op. at 11, Hartnett, V.C. (Del. Ch. Jan. 29, 1986), reh’g denied, C.A. No. 7973, Hartnett, V.C. (Del. Ch. Mar. 10, 1986). See also Auction-USA, Inc. v. WSFS, C.A. No. 92C-01-198, Del Pesco, J. (Del. Super. July 1, 1992) (fIled discovery responses inconsistent with prior pleading constituted an amendment of the prior pleading, thereby precluding use of that pleading as a binding judicial admission); State v. Cooley, 473 A.2d 818, 824 (Del. Super. 1983).
112.1. Merritt v. United Parcel Service, 856 A.2d 1196, 1201-02 (Del. 2008).
113. Bruce E.M. v. Dorothea A.M., 455 A.2d 866, 869 (Del. 1983); Rudnick v. Shoenberg, 122 A. 902, 904 (Del. 1923); Staats v. Lawrence, 576 A.2d 663, 665 (Del. Super.), aff’d mem., 582 A.2d 936 (Del. 1990).
113.1. AT&T Corp. v. Lillis, 953 A.2d 241, 257 (Del. 2008).
© 2010 David L. Finger