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Borrell v. Bloomsburg University

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2015

ANGELA BORRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY, GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER, and ARTHUR F. RICHER and MICHELLE FICCA in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Before me are two motions in limine filed by Plaintiff Angela Borrell ("Borrell") (Docs. 158; 159), and two motions in limine filed by Defendants Geisinger Medical Center ("Geisinger") and Arthur Richer ("Richer") (collectively, "Geisinger Defendants"). (Docs. 195; 197.)

Background

The factual background of this action is set forth in detail in the October 21, 2014 Memorandum resolving the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. See Borrell v. Bloomsburg Univ., ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2014 WL 5365322 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2014). For purposes relevant here, it is sufficient to note that Borrell commenced this action after she was dismissed as a student from Bloomsburg University and Geisinger's collaborative Nurse Anesthesia Program ("NAP") in September 2012 for refusing to submit to a drug test. Because Borrell was deprived of a property interest without procedural due process when she was dismissed from the NAP, summary judgment as to liability was granted in Borrell's favor on her procedural due process property interest claim.[1] Trial on Borrell's claims for damages for the deprivation of her due process rights is scheduled to commence on June 22, 2015.

Discussion

As stated, both Borrell and Geisinger Defendants have filed motions in limine . The motions in limine filed by Borrell will be addressed first.

1. Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Irrelevant Evidence (Doc. 158)

In her first motion in limine, Borrell seeks to exclude evidence or argument about: (A) her alleged possession or use of drugs or alcohol; (B) the alleged possession or use of drugs or alcohol by her boyfriend; (C) the alleged possession or use of drugs or alcohol by her mother or sister; (D) the possession or use of drugs or alcohol by other individuals in her presence; (E) her father's criminal record or that he has been incarcerated; (F) her reference to students she believed fabricated a story about her use of drugs as "whores"; (G) that other students, given a hypothetical about whether they would have taken drug tests in similar circumstances, would have submitted to the test; and (H) her alleged communications about student obligations to follow the drug and alcohol policy of Geisinger, Bloomsburg, or the NAP. (Doc. 158, ¶ 4.) Defendants jointly oppose Borrell's motion to exclude this evidence. (Doc. 180.) The motion in limine will be granted in part and deferred in part.

With respect to category (A), Defendants contend that pursuant to Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 98 S.Ct. 1042, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978), Borrell is not entitled to recover compensatory damages occasioned by her dismissal from the NAP because she would have been dismissed from the program for refusing to take the drug test even if she was afforded all process due.[2] Thus, Defendants conclude that the information they had at the time Borrell was requested to submit to a drug test is relevant under Carey . Because Borrell's alleged use or possession of drugs may bear on that issue, a ruling on the admissibility of this evidence will be deferred at this time.

Similarly, the admissibility of category (B) evidence, the alleged use or possession of drugs by Borrell's boyfriend, will be deferred to the time of trial. Defendants argue that at the time Borrell was requested to submit to a drug test they had information that her boyfriend was a user and supplier of drugs, which formed their factual basis for requesting the drug test. (Doc. 63, Ex. B., Wands Decl., ¶ 14.) Whether this evidence is admissible will be determined at trial.

The evidence in category (C), use or possession of drugs or alcohol by Borrell's mother and sister, and category (D), use or possession of drugs or alcohol by others in her presence, will be excluded. Unlike the evidence in category (B), Defendants have not identified any evidence that use or possession of drugs or alcohol by her mother, sister, or others in her presence helped form the factual basis for the drug test request. This evidence is therefore not relevant to any issues in the case and will be excluded.

Defendants argue that they should be permitted to present evidence in category (E) pertaining to Borrell's father because it provides an independent source to explain any emotional distress suffered by Borrell. The admissibility of this evidence as it relates to Borrell's claim for distress damages will be determined at trial.

Borrell's motion to exclude evidence in category (F) regarding her description of others as "whores" or other pejorative terms will be granted. Defendants contend these remarks are relevant to her damages claim for loss of earnings as they bear on her "professionalism and fitness" for the practice of nurse anesthesia. (Doc. 180, 13.) Defendants have not identified any evidence that these remarks have an impact on Borrell's earnings capacity or her ability to practice as a nurse anesthetist. These remarks are irrelevant, add nothing to the case, and will be excluded at trial.

In category (G), Borrell seeks to exclude evidence that other students in a hypothetical situation similar to that she faced would have submitted to a drug test. This evidence is irrelevant and will be excluded. Whether or not other students would have taken a drug test in similar circumstances is not probative of any issues in this case. Other students' willingness to initially submit to a drug test and/or what they would have done in similar circumstances has no bearing on whether additional process would have changed the outcome for Borrell. Likewise, that other students would have ...


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