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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 Plaintiffs following motions in limine:

1, Motion to Preclude Inadmissible Lay Opinion Testimony (Doc. 181);
2. Motion to Preclude the Testimony and Opinions of Defendants' Expert Steven W. Rickard (Doc. 193).

         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 Elec. Prods. Antitrust Litig., 723 F.2d 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." Frintner v. TruePosition, 892 F.Supp.2d 699, 707 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (citing Japanese Elec. 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." Walden 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." Ohler v. 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 Plaintiffs motions.

         1. Motion to Preclude Inadmissible Lay Opinion Testimony (Doc. 181)

         In Plaintiffs "Motion to Preclude Inadmissible Lay Opinion Testimony" (Doc. 181), Plaintiff seeks to preclude Derek Strauss and Gurjit Sanghera, "two individuals who allegedly witnessed the subject accident", "from offer[ing] any opinion testimony regarding who [each person] believes was at fault for the subject accident." (Doc. 182, at 2, 3). Plaintiff also seeks to preclude Strauss from "offering any opinion or testimony regarding the speed of Plaintiffs vehicle" as well as "any opinion testimony regarding how long Defendant Green's tractor-trailer was on the roadway prior to impact." (Doc. 182, at 5).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 701, the opinion testimony of a witness who is not testifying as an expert is limited to one that is (1) "rationally based on the witness's perception", (2) helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or to determining a fact in issue", and (3) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702", which governs testimony by an expert witness. Fed.R.Evid. 701.

         With respect to Sanghera, Plaintiff objects to the following exchange from Sanghera's Recorded Statement:

Q. And in your opinion, you know, from being a witness and seeing the accident who's [sic] fault would you think the accident was?
A. I have been driving from 2004. I've been driving trucks. All I can say is it's the car driver's fault because even, even let's say even truck driver he didn't see him, but car driver did see the big truck, big rig coming through ...

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