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Paluch v. Smith

July 16, 2010

JAMES A. PALUCH, JR., PLAINTIFF
v.
ROGER SMITH, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are Plaintiff James A. Paluch, Jr.'s motions in limine. (Docs. 487 & 488.) For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant in part and deny in part the first motion in limine,(Doc. 487), and grant the second motion in limine, (Doc. 488).

I. Background

On September 7, 2006, Plaintiff commenced a civil action against Defendant Smith and four corrections officers from State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Huntingdon") ("DOC Defendants") by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) The case arises from an alleged assault on Plaintiff by his cell mate, Defendant Smith, in their cell at SCIHuntingdon. Plaintiff alleged that all Defendants are liable for damages resulting from that assault.

On April 2, 2007, a default judgment was entered against Defendant Smith for failure to plead or otherwise defend pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See Doc. 57.) The matter proceeded to trial as to the DOC Defendants. Following a three-day jury trial which commenced on October 26, 2009, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the DOC Defendants on October 28, 2009. (See Doc. 379.) Judgment was entered in favor of DOC Defendants on October 29, 2009. (See Doc. 385.)

By order dated October 28, 2009, the court severed Defendant Smith from that jury trial and stated that a damages trial on Plaintiff's claims against Roger Smith would be held at some future date. (Doc. 376.) That damages trial is scheduled for July 21, 2010. In advance of the trial, Plaintiff has filed the instant motions in limine.

II. Discussion

Plaintiff wishes to exclude various evidence and arguments from being introduced at trial. The court will discuss these requests in turn.

A. Request No. 1

Plaintiff requests that Defendant Smith be precluded from speaking about Plaintiff's criminal conviction or the specifics surrounding his criminal conviction because such evidence is irrelevant and prejudicial. The court agrees.

Under Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, "relevant evidence" is "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. Here, the fact that Plaintiff was arrested and convicted of a crime prior to September 9, 2004, has no relation to any determination of damages in this case. See id. Therefore, any references to this evidence shall be inadmissible as irrelevant evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 402.

B. Request No. 2

Plaintiff requests that references to the following evidence be precluded as such evidence is irrelevant and prejudicial: any misconduct reports issued to Plaintiff before, on, or after September 9, 2004; and, Plaintiff's placement in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"), including the Special Management Unit ("SMU") or administrative custody, before and after September 9, 2004. The court agrees. Here, the fact that Plaintiff was issued misconduct reports prior to the September 9, 2004 assault or that he was admitted to the RHU, SMU or administrative custody prior to and subsequent to September 9, 2004, has no relation to any determination as to damages in this case. See Fed. R. Evid. 401. Therefore, any references to this evidence shall be inadmissible as irrelevant evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 402.

C. Request No. 3

Plaintiff requests that Defendant Smith be precluded from testifying that Plaintiff was the cause of an assault committed upon Defendant Smith in July 2008 because such evidence is irrelevant and prejudicial. The court agrees. Here, the fact that Defendant Smith was involved in an assault in July 2008, nearly four years after the assault at issue in this case, has no relation to any determination as to damages in this case. See Fed. R. Evid. ...


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