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Erik D. andrews v. Scott W. Seales

July 31, 2012

ERIK D. ANDREWS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT W. SEALES,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy R. Rice U.S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On September 12, 2009, during an investigatory stop in Independence National Historical Park, Defendant Scott W. Seales -- a National Park Service ranger -- shot Plaintiff Erik D. Andrews with a TASER device, then arrested him. Andrews sued Seales, claiming his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force was violated when Seales allegedly slammed Andrews' head into a cobblestone street while handcuffing him.*fn1 Seales has filed three motions in limine.*fn2 One motion, which seeks to exclude evidence of Seales' prior bad acts, is unopposed and will be granted. In the two that remain, Seales seeks: 1) to preclude Andrews from testifying as to the cause of his facial injuries; and 2) permission to cross-examine Andrews about certain prior false statements. For the reasons that follow, I will deny the former and grant, in part, the latter.

I. Motion to Preclude Andrews' Testimony About "Medical Causation" Seales concedes that Andrews, as a lay witness, may describe what he perceived throughout the encounter, including any pain, and when and where he felt it. See Def.'s Mot. Preclude Pl. Testifying Medical Causation at ¶¶ 9-10, 15, Andrews v. Seales, No. 11-1967 (E.D. Pa. July 23, 2012) [hereinafter 701 Mot.]; see also Fed. R. Evid. 701. Seales, however, urges me to prevent Andrews from testifying that his injuries occurred not when he was shot with Seales' TASER and fell, but when Seales pushed his face into the ground again while handcuffing him. See generally 701 Mot.

Pursuant to Rule 701, Andrews is entitled to describe at trial:

* where he perceived the impact of his initial fall to the ground;

* whether he felt pain after falling and, if so, where he felt pain;

* whether he could breathe, speak, or move his head and face after he fell;

* whether his face struck the ground again after the initial fall; and

* whether he felt new or different pain following any post-fall impacts. Testimony regarding such issues falls squarely within the bounds of Rule 701. Cf. Stires v. Cnty. of Cape May, No. 99-5640, 2001 WL 34609517, at *5 (3d Cir. 2001) (concluding a hostile-work-environment plaintiff could describe physical symptoms she experienced after exposure to workplace discrimination, but was properly prevented from testifying that serious physical impairments like ulcers and a heart attack were caused by the discrimination).

The parties agree Andrews was injured during his encounter with Seales. They have stipulated as to the nature of Andrews' injuries, but disagree about their cause. See 701 Mot. at ¶ 3. Nevertheless, there are only two possible causes of the undisputed injuries: the force of Andrews' initial fall when he was struck by the TASER device, or the impact when Seales allegedly slammed Andrews' face into the ground thereafter.

If the jury believes Seales, it will find Andrews' head struck the ground only once --when he was shot with the TASER and fell to the ground. If the jury believes Andrews and finds Seales slammed his head into the ground again after he fell, the jury will be required to determine which, if any, of Andrews' injuries resulted from Seales' post-TASER actions. Thus, Andrews' testimony about the location and degree of pain he felt following each impact will be "helpful to . . . the determination of a fact in issue." Fed. R. Evid. 701. This assessment --comparing the locations of Andrews' undisputed injuries with the places Andrews states he felt pain after each impact -- does not require the sort of specialized or scientific knowledge that would trigger Rule 702 and limit Andrews' testimony as Seales suggests. As such, Seales' motion will be denied.

II. Motion to Permit Cross-Examination About Andrews' Previous False Statements

Seales seeks permission to cross-examine Andrews at trial regarding false statements Andrews made about his criminal history on recent applications for employment and state public assistance. See Def.'s Mot. Limine Permit Cross-Examination Pl.'s Prior False Statements at 1-2, Andrews v. Seales, No. 11-1967 (E.D. Pa. July 23, 2012) [hereinafter 608(b) Mot.].

Federal Rule of Evidence 608 permits cross-examination of any witness about specific acts "concerning the witness' character for truthfulness or untruthfulness." Fed. R. Evid. 608(b). Although such conduct "may not be proved by extrinsic evidence," I have discretion to permit inquiry about the acts "if [they are] probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness."*fn3 Id. In exercising the discretion granted by Rule 608(b), however, I also must consider whether the probative value of the testimony at issue would be ...


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