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Hill v. City of Scranton

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


March 7, 2006

PHYLLIS HILL, ET. AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
CITY OF SCRANTON AND JAMES P. CONNORS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MAYOR, CITY OF SCRANTON DEFENDANTS

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion in Limine ("the Motion") (doc. 243) filed on February 15, 2006. In the Motion, Defendants request various rulings concerning the admissibility of certain evidence at trial. This trial is currently scheduled to begin on April 5, 2006.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion in Limine to Prohibit Plaintiffs from Presenting Calculations of Front Pay Damages to the Jury

Defendants move this Court to prohibit the Plaintiffs from presenting their own testimony as evidence of front pay damages to the jury at trial. The Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs' own calculations will provide no basis for the jury to determine a reasonable time period for an award of front pay.*fn1

It is well settled that expert testimony is not required to present evidence of front pay damages to a jury. See Shesko v. City of Coatesville, 324 F. Supp. 2d 643, 651 (E.D. Pa. 2004). "[T]he risk of lack of certainty with respect to projections of lost income must be borne by the wrongdoer, not the victim." Id. (citing Bartek v. Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, 882 F. 2d 739, 746 (3d Cir. 1989). Therefore, we will deny this Motion in Limine and allow the Plaintiffs to present to the jury lay evidence of front pay damages calculations. The Defendants will be afforded appropriate latitude on cross-examination of the Plaintiffs to fully explore the basis of their individual damage calculations.

B. Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Presenting Any Evidence to the Jury Concerning the Facts, Circumstances or Verdict in the Murray Trial

Defendants argue that we should preclude the Plaintiffs from presenting any evidence concerning the trial in the matter of Murray v. City of Scranton, 4:01-CV-744, that was held before this Court in June of 2003. Defendants argue that the facts, circumstances and verdict in the Murray trial are not relevant, and if admitted, could potentially prejudice and confuse the jury. Plaintiffs argue that the Plaintiff in Murray is a similarly situated person to the Plaintiffs and therefore any evidence concerning his trial is clearly relevant to the instant trial.

While we decline to place a blanket prohibition on Plaintiffs from introducing evidence about the Murray trial in the instant trial, we caution Plaintiffs that we will not allow them to introduce wholesale evidence of the Murray trial to the jury. As we cannot anticipate exactly what evidence concerning the Murray trial that Plaintiffs intend to introduce, we shall defer a ruling on this Motion in Limine until trial.*fn2

C. Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Introducing Evidence about Golf Course or Summer Employees

Defendants move this Court to preclude the Plaintiffs from presenting evidence concerning golf course or summer employees because the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that neither of these groups are subject to the residency ordinance.

The law of the case doctrine requires a trial court, on remand, to "proceed in accordance with the mandate and the law of the case as established on appeal." Bankers v. Trust Co. v. Bethlehem Steele Corp., 761 F.2d 943, 949 (3d Cir. 1985). The purpose of the law of the case doctrine is "to maintain consistency and avoid reconsideration of matters once decided during the course of a single continuing lawsuit." Paul v. The Hearst Corporation, 261 F. Supp. 2d 303, 305 n. 4 (M.D. Pa. 2002)(Kane, J.)

In its Memorandum Opinion issued in Hill, et. al, v. City of Scranton, et. al, Nos. 02-3833/3988 & 03-1377 on June 9, 2005, the Third Circuit noted that neither the golf course employees or the temporary summer employees were subjected to the residency ordinance and therefore the "officers cannot reasonably argue that any of these employees are 'similarly situated' to them." (Rec. Doc. 216, Ex. 2 at 16-17, n. 15). Therefore, we will grant the Defendants' Motion in Limine and preclude the Plaintiffs from offering evidence concerning the golf course or temporary summer employees.

D. Motion in Limine to Limit Plaintiff's Evidence and Arguments Concerning Punitive Damages

Defendants seek to have us limit Plaintiff's arguments and evidence of punitive damages as against Mayor Connors in his personal capacity. Plaintiffs concede that they can only receive punitive damages against Mayor Connors in his individual capacity and state that they will pursue that claim accordingly.

Therefore, this Motion in Limine is granted, and Plaintiffs shall limit their punitive damages evidence and arguments as against Mayor Connors in his individual capacity only.

E. Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Offering Hearsay Statements from Ray Mountford

Defendants move this Court to preclude Plaintiffs from offering testimony from Ray Mountford ("Mountford"), an investigator hired by the City of Scranton to gather evidence concerning the actual residency of certain City employees, that an unidentified declarant told him that Donald Pettinato ("Pettinato"), another City police officer, lived outside the City and would not be moving back. Defendants argue that because Mountford cannot identify the declarant, the statement is inadmissible. Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs should be precluded from making reference to a written statement in Mountford's notes concerning his investigation of Pettinato which states "Jarbola sister or sister-in-law." Defendants reference our prior ruling in the Murray case where we ruled that the written note about District Attorney Jarbola was irrelevant and inadmissible.

Our review of the record reveals that in the Murray trial a rather searching examination of Mountford by Plaintiff's counsel was permitted without any substantial objection by Defendants' counsel. The notable exception involved a line of questioning by Murray's counsel that as noted involved Lackawanna County District Attorney Jarabola. As Plaintiffs argue, and as Defendants obviously perceived in the Murray trial, Mountford is an agent of Defendants who took notes and prepared reports in furtherance of his duties. He is thus an extension of Defendants and can be fully questioned about his findings. However, it was our belief in Murray, as it relates to the Jarabola issue, that Plaintiff's counsel was endeavoring to engage in speculation, without any foundation whatsoever, as to political influence in favor of a similarly situated employee. If this line of questioning is again attempted without foundation, a timely objection to it will be sustained and such examination will be prohibited.

F. Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs Hill and Hickey from Offering Evidence that they were Compliant with the Residency Ordinance

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs Hill and Hickey*fn3 should be precluded from offering any evidence that they were in fact compliant with the Residency Ordinance because the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that "on this record, no reasonable fact finder could conclude that either Hill or Hickey came into compliance within the time period provided by the City." (Rec. Doc. 216, Ex. 2 at 19). However, the record between when the Third Circuit viewed this action and the present may well have been further developed due to the passage of time. Therefore, although we are uncertain whether there has been additional evidence revealed since the Third Circuit's mandate, we cannot preclude Plaintiffs from offering such evidence to the extent that it was not before that tribunal to show that Hill or Hickey were compliant with the residency ordinance. We will accordingly deny the Motion in Limine in this respect; however, we caution Plaintiffs that any evidence that they intend to introduce with respect to compliance must clearly be outside of the referenced Third Circuit record.

G. Motion in Limine Regarding Severed Trials

In the event that the claims of the Plaintiffs were tried to separate juries, Defendant sought to have us prohibit the Plaintiffs from presenting to the jury facts and circumstances concerning the termination of the other Plaintiffs. In light of the fact that cases Plaintiffs Hill and Graham will be tried together to the same jury, this Motion in Limine is dismissed as moot.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. Defendant's Motion in Limine (doc. 243) is GRANTED in part, DENIED in part, DEFERRED in part, and DISMISSED as MOOT in part to the following extent:

A. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Prohibit Plaintiffs from Presenting Calculations of Front Pay Damages to the Jury is DENIED.

B. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Presenting Any Evidence to the Jury Concerning the Facts, Circumstances or Verdict in the Murray Trial is DEFERRED.

C. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Introducing Evidence about Golf Course or Summer Employees is GRANTED.

D. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Limit Plaintiff's Evidence and Arguments Concerning Punitive Damages is GRANTED.

E. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs from Offering Hearsay Statements from Ray Mountford is DENIED, save for the anticipated "Jarabola testimony," and it is GRANTED only to that extent.

F. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiffs Hill and Hickey from Offering Evidence that they were Compliant with the Residency Ordinance is DENIED.

G. Defendants' Motion in Limine Regarding Severed Trials is DISMISSED as MOOT.

John E. Jones III United States District Judge


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