United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MARY MALANTONIO, et al.
JOSEPH BOYLE, III, et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
P. HART, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Joseph Boyle, III, has filed a Motion in Limine to preclude
the Mention of a Citation Arising out of the Accident (Doc.
No. 45). Defendant contends that longstanding Pennsylvania
law provides that evidence of a traffic citation is
inadmissible in a civil trial for damages related to the same
traffic violation. Doc. No. 45, citing Loughner v.
Schmelzer, 421 Pa. 283, 284-85 (1966). We agree that
according to Pennsylvania law evidence of a plea to a traffic
citation would not be admissible in a civil case arising out
of the incident. See 42 PA.C.S.A. § 6142(a)
(“A plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or a payment of
the fine and costs prescribed after any such plea, in any
summary proceeding made by any person charged with a
violation of Title 75 (relating to vehicles) shall not be
admissible as evidence in any civil matter arising out of the
same violation or under the same facts or
while Defendant also contends that federal courts have
followed this rule, we find that under the Federal Rules of
Evidence the citation is admissible. The Court must make two
determinations when applying the Federal Rules of Evidence:
(1) is the evidence inadmissible hearsay, and (2) is it
inadmissible under the balancing test set forth in Rule 403.
Evidence of traffic citations has been held to fall under
hearsay exceptions, such as statements against interest.
See Rain v. Pavkov, 357 F.2d 506, 510 (3d Cir.
1966); Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3). In addition, some courts have
determined that evidence of guilty pleas to citations is
admissible as an admission of a party opponent and therefore
not hearsay. See Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2); Allen v.
Fletcher, No. 3:07-cv-722, 2009 WL 3103828, *2 (Sept.
24, 2009) (finding citation admissible after concluding that
it is an admission of a party opponent and not hearsay);
Grosek v. Panther Transp., Inc., No. 3:07-cv-1592,
2009 WL 905035, * (April 1, 2009) (same). Therefore, under
the Federal Rules the evidence would not be excluded as
applying the balancing test under Rule 403, we must weigh the
probative value of the evidence against any prejudicial
effect caused by the evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 403. In this case
evidence that Defendant entered a plea to a traffic citation
is most certainly relevant since an issue in this case will
be whether Defendant properly yielded to Plaintiff at the
intersection. See Fed. R. Evid. 401. “[T]here
is a strong presumption that relevant evidence should be
admitted, and thus for exclusion under Rule 403 to be
justified, the probative value of evidence must be
“substantially outweighed” by the problems in
admitting it.” Coleman v. Home Depot, Inc.,
306 F.3d 1333, 1343-44 (3d Cir. 2022). In order for the
evidence to be excluded the prejudicial effect must rise to
the level of creating an unfair advantage to one party.
Id. at 1344. Since Defendant will have the
opportunity to testify regarding the circumstances
surrounding his plea to the traffic citation and will be able
to explain his actions, we find that the probative value of
the evidence outweighs any prejudicial effect of admitting
the evidence. See Grosek, No. 3:07-cv-1592, 2009 WL
905035 at *4 (finding that while evidence of the guilty plea
harms defendant's position in the litigation, that
evidence is not unfairly prejudicial).
that although the evidence would be inadmissible under
Pennsylvania law, it is admissible under Federal Rules. The
Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that in a diversity
case “if [evidentiary] rules [between state and federal
courts] conflict we must apply the federal rules so long as
they are rationally capable of classification as
procedural.” Salas v. Wang, 846 F.2d 897, 904
(3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S.
460, 472 (1965)). Since the admissibility of evidence of a
traffic citation in a case involving an automobile accident
does not alter any of the elements Plaintiff must prove, a
rule regarding admissibility of the traffic citation is
procedural. See Rain v. Pavkov, 357 F.2d 506, 509
(3d Cir. 1962) (holding that district court had erred by
applying Pennsylvania law to exclude evidence of a guilty
plea to reckless driving charge because it was admissible as
an admission against interest and rules of evidence are
generally procedural). The Third Circuit has specifically
held that a plea of guilty to a driving offense is admissible
in an action for personal injuries based upon the same facts
and circumstances and that while a Pennsylvania Rule was
contrary to that general rule, such a state rule is not
controlling in the federal courts. Id. Therefore,
this court will apply the Federal Rules of Evidence and will
not preclude evidence of Defendant's guilty plea to a
traffic citation. Defendant will also be able to testify to
the circumstances surrounding the plea.
appropriate order follows.
NOW, this 16th day of February, 2017, upon
consideration of Defendant's Motion in Limine to Preclude
Mention of a Citation Arising out of the Accident (Doc. No.
45) and Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc.
No. 47), it is hereby ORDERED that the Motion (Doc. No. 45)
 Defendant cites Dagostinv. Moore. In that case, the court granted a Motion
in Limine to preclude Plaintiff from offering evidence of a
summary conviction for running a red light, resulting in the
accident at issue in the case as part of Plaintiff's case
in chief. See Dagostin v. Moore, 3:CV-08-1131, 2009
WL 1139482, *1 (M.D. Pa. April 27, 2009). Even accepting the
holding made by that court and referenced in this
non-precedential memorandum opinion, evidence of the citation
would still be admissible to impeach the Defendant's
assertions that he did not fail to yield the right of way or
stop at the stop sign. The trial court specifically noted