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Botey v. Green

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2017

JONATHAN BOTEY, Plaintiff
v.
ROBERT GREEN, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court are Defendants' following motions in limine;

1. Motion in Limine to Preclude any use of Tommy Dodd's and Mark Rhea's Video Deposition to Support an Inference, Opinion or Diagnosis of Dementia or that FFE Employed Unsafe Drivers (Doc. 152)
2. Motion in Limine to Preclude any use of Tommy Dodd's Lay Testimony to Support an Inference, Opinion or Diagnosis of Dementia (Doc, 158)
3. Motion in Limine to Preclude any Testimony, Reference or Inference of Defendant, Robert D. Green's Medical Condition at Present Time, or Reference to him Being Diagnosed with Dementia (Doc. 174)
4. Motion in Limine to Preclude any Inference, Evidence, or Testimony that Defendant, Robert D. Green, was "Off Route" in any of the Days Leading up to the Accident (Doc. 172)

         The Court will address each request in turn. Before doing so, however, the Court notes at the outset that it exercises its discretion to rule in limine on evidentiary issues "in appropriate cases." In re Japanese Bee. Prods. Antitrust Litig., 723 Fid 238, 260 (3d Cir.1983), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). While motions in limine may serve as a useful pretrial tool that enables a more in-depth briefing than would be available at trial, a court may defer ruling on such motions "if the context of trial would provide clarity." Frintnerv. TruePosiiion, 892 F.Supp.2d 699, 707 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (citing Japanese Bee, Prods., 723 F.2d at 260).

         "[M]otions in limine often present issues for which final decision is best reserved for a specific trial situation." Waiden v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 126 F.3d 506, 518 n.10 (3d Cir 1997). Thus, certain motions, "especially ones that encompass broad classes of evidence, should generally be deferred until trial to allow for the resolution of questions of foundation, relevancy, and potential prejudice in proper context." Leonard v. Stemetech Health Scis., Inc., 981 F.Supp.2d 273, 276 (D. Del. 2013). Specifically, "pretrial Rule 403 exclusions should rarely be granted[A] court cannot fairly ascertain the potential relevance of evidence for Rule 403 purposes until it has a full record relevant to the putatively objectionable evidence." In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 916 F.2d 829, 859 (3d Cir. 1990) (emphasis original). Finally, it is important to note that "in limine rulings are not binding on the trial judge, and the judge may always change his mind during the course of a trial." Ohierv. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3, 120 S.Ct. 1851, 146 L.Ed.2d 826 (2000).

         With these principles in mind, the Court now turns to Defendants' afore-listed motions.

         1. Motion in Limine to Preclude any use of Tommy Dodd's and Mark Rhea's Video Deposition to Support an Inference, Opinion or Diagnosis of Dementia or that FFE Employed Unsafe Drivers (Doc. 152)

         Defendants assert that Plaintiff should be precluded from offering Dodd's video testimony to support an inference, opinion or diagnosis of dementia. Specifically, Defendants argue that the video testimony "cannot be used to refer, opine, or infer" that Green had dementia and "should be excluded because it is irrelevant" and that the use of Dodd's video testimony to support an inference or opinion of Green's current medical condition or dementia diagnosis should be excluded because its probative value is substantially outweighed by the dangers of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the jury, (Doc. 153, at 5, 7).

         Defendants further argue that the use of Rhea's testimony "to infer FFE employed unsafe drivers should be excluded because its probative value is substantially outweighed by the dangers of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues or misleading the jury." (Doc. 153, at 8).

         Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence is relevant if "it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and... the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. Irrelevant evidence is not admissible and relevant evidence is admissible unless otherwise provided by the Constitution, federal statute, Federal Rules of Evidence, or other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court. Fed.R.Evid. 402. Relevant evidence may be excluded "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of... unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, [or] misleading the jury." Fed.R.Evid. 403. Even if the Court deems the relevant evidence to be admissible, "[a] witness may testify to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter." Fed.R.Evid. 602.

         The Court does not interpret Defendants' motion as requesting that the testimony of Dodd itself be precluded, and Dodd's testimony, itself, based as it is on Dodd's experience as Green's trainer, is clearly admissible. As far as the use of Dodd's testimony to support an expert opinion, it may be used for that purpose in accordance with Rule 703. However, Dodd himself will not be permitted to give an opinion as to whether Green had or showed signs of dementia. Indeed, a review of Dodd's testimony does not reveal any ...


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