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Julia Quagliarello v. Officer Joshua Dewees

August 4, 2011

JULIA QUAGLIARELLO
v.
OFFICER JOSHUA DEWEES, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTIONS IN LIMINE

I. Introduction

This civil rights action arises out of the stop and arrest of Plaintiff Julia Quagliarello ("Plaintiff") by Chester Police Officer Joshua Dewees ("Officer Dewees"), after Plaintiff committed a traffic violation while driving in Chester, Pennsylvania on January 29, 2009.*fn1

Plaintiff has sued Officer Dewees and the City of Chester (collectively, "Defendants") for violations of her rights under the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania law.

In advance of trial, Plaintiff filed two additional motions in limine.*fn2 First, Plaintiff moves to preclude Defendants from introducing into evidence photographs of Plaintiff from the social networking sites Facebook and Myspace. (ECF No. 51) Second, Plaintiff moves to preclude Defendants from 1) introducing into evidence a videotape reenacting Officer Dewees's pursuit of Plaintiff's vehicle for several blocks before Plaintiff pulled over; and 2) performing a demonstration of a police vehicle's flashing lights, siren, and horn. (ECF No. 52)

The Court heard oral argument on these motions at a hearing on August 1, 2011. At a hearing on August 4, 2011, the Court ruled from the bench as follows:

First, if Plaintiff opens the door on direct testimony to her emotional distress following the incident, the Defendants may introduce up to three photographs on cross-examination that are probative of Plaintiff's emotional state, assuming Defendants can show the photographs were taken after the date of the incident and before Plaintiff filed suit. Plaintiff will then be permitted to introduce up to three photographs on redirect to support her claim of emotional distress. Defendants may not introduce any text from Plaintiff's social networking webpages.

Second, Defendants may show the jury the portion of the video that depicts the view from the front windshield and the side window. Defendants must edit the video to eliminate the view from the rear window and the word "reenactment."

Third, Defendants will not be permitted to show the jury a demonstration of a police vehicle's siren, horn, and lights.

This Memorandum supports the Court's rulings.

II. The Parties' Contentions

With respect to the social networking sites, Plaintiff contends the photographs she posted online have no relevance to this litigation and may impute to her a negative character or reputation. Plaintiff argues the photographs should be precluded pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402, 403, and 404. Defendants contend in their response (ECF No. 56) that Plaintiff put her mental and physical condition in controversy by alleging past and future physical and mental pain, anguish, severe emotional trauma, embarrassment, and humiliation resulting from her arrest. Defendants assert that photographs, video, posts, and other content on Plaintiff's social media profiles are relevant and material to defending her emotional distress claims. At oral argument, Defendants contended that Plaintiff's photographs on Myspace tend to show that she did not exhibit psychological distress after the incident.

With respect to the videotape and the demonstration of the police vehicle, Plaintiff contends they are inadmissible experiments that do not reconstruct the scene. Plaintiff asserts that the conditions in the video, such as the season, the view from the car windows, and the number of cars parked on the street, differ from the actual incident. Plaintiff also contends that the jury's observation of a police vehicle parked outside of the courthouse with flashing lights and sounding horn and siren would not resemble what Plaintiff saw and heard from her car on the day of the incident. Defendants contend in their response (ECF No. 55) that the video and the demonstration are offered as illustrations rather than reenactments. Defendants argue that the videotape will "bring context and insight that words alone cannot" to Officer Dewees's expected testimony that he followed Plaintiff for eight blocks before she stopped, although there were "numerous turn-outs where she could have stopped." Resp. at 5. Further, Defendants assert that "the police vehicle demonstration is offered to visually and audibly ...


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