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McCurdy v. Echostar Communications Corp.

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


February 23, 2006

JANIE L. MCCURDY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ECHOSTAR COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION, A/K/A ECHOSTAR SATELLITE CORPORATION, AND A/K/A ECHOSPHERE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

The factual and procedural details of this case are well known to the parties, and I need not repeat them in detail here. In short, Plaintiff, Janie McCurdy ("Plaintiff"), initiated this action against her former employer, Defendant Echostar Communications Corporation ("Defendant" or "Echostar"), alleging discriminatory treatment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA"), as well as conduct in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA") and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.("ERISA").*fn1

Pending are two Motions in Limine filed by Plaintiff. (Docket Nos. 81-82). Defendant opposes Plaintiff's Motions. (Docket Nos. 104-105). The Motions are now ripe for review, and I have considered them in light of the appropriate evidentiary standards. After careful consideration, the Motions in Limine are granted in part and denied in part as set forth more fully below.

I. EVIDENCE THAT PLAINTIFF FAILED TO MITIGATE HER DAMAGES

Plaintiff has moved to preclude Defendant from offering at trial any evidence or argument that Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages. (Docket No. 81). Plaintiff argues that she has elected to limit her claim for economic losses to six months of lost disability benefits and will not present a wage loss claim at trial. Therefore, Plaintiff contends, evidence on mitigation is irrelevant to any issue in this case. This portion of Plaintiff's Motion in Limine is granted. I agree with Plaintiff, and Defendant does not dispute, that because Plaintiff has elected not to pursue a wage loss claim, mitigation is no longer an issue in the case. Thus, evidence offered to show that Plaintiff failed to mitigate her wage loss damages is irrelevant and inadmissible at trial. See Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402.

My decision granting Plaintiff's Motion, however, is strictly limited to the mitigation issue. Although the body of Plaintiff's motion mentions several specific items as examples of evidence Plaintiff wants excluded as evidence for any purpose,*fn2 the motion itself as well as the proposed order are directed solely to the issue of mitigation of damages. As Defendant points out in its Response (Docket No. 105), the specific evidence Plaintiff cites may be relevant to issues other than failure to mitigate. Whether or not Defendant's arguments in this regard are correct is an issue better left for decision at trial.

In short, Plaintiff's Motion in Limine is granted to the extent it seeks to preclude argument or evidence at trial that Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages.*fn3 To the extent Defendant argues that specific pieces of evidence are admissible for purposes other than mitigation, I will consider such evidence and objections thereto at the time of trial.

II. PLAINTIFF'S RECEIPT OF SOCIAL WELFARE BENEFITS

Plaintiff has moved to preclude Defendant from offering at trial any evidence or argument that Plaintiff collected any form of social welfare benefit, such as food stamps, cash assistance and/or medical assistance, following her termination from employment. (Docket No. 82). Plaintiff argues that such evidence is irrelevant and that, even if relevant, any probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Plaintiff. As with her Motion in Limine to exclude mitigation evidence, Plaintiff did not file a brief in support of this five-paragraph Motion.

Plaintiff's Motion is granted to the extent Defendant intends to introduce evidence of Plaintiff's social welfare benefits to off-set Plaintiff's wage loss. As set forth above, Plaintiff has elected not to pursue her wage loss claim. In addition, social welfare benefits such as food stamps and other welfare programs are "collateral source" benefits that may not be set off against back pay. See Maxfield v. Sinclair Int'l, 766 F.2d 788, 793-94 (3d Cir. 1985); Quint v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., 172 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1999). Thus, Plaintiff's receipt of social welfare benefits is irrelevant in this regard.

Again, however, I am unable to rule at this stage that evidence of Plaintiff's social welfare benefits is inadmissible for all other purposes.*fn4 To the extent Defendant seeks to introduce evidence of Plaintiff's receipt of social welfare benefits for purposes other than establishing Plaintiff's wage loss, I will consider such evidence and objections thereto at the time of trial.

AND NOW, this 23rd day of February, 2006, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motions in Limine (Docket Nos. 81-82), it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude Argument or Evidence That Plaintiff Failed to Mitigate Her Damages (Docket No. 81) and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence or Argument Pertaining to Plaintiff's Receipt of Social Welfare Benefits (Docket No. 82) are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as set forth more fully in the Opinion accompanying this Order.

Donetta W. Ambrose, Chief U. S. District Judge


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