United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Marini United States District Judge.
a § 1983 employment action involving First Amendment
retaliation claims against Wayne County and numerous
individual Defendants, as well as a claim for assault and
battery against Defendant Botjer. Doc. 11. Presently before
the Court are three motions in limine by Defendants to
preclude (1) testimony related to Botjer's family
members' employment (Doc. 40); (2) evidence of lost
future earnings (Doc. 42); and (3) evidence related to other
employees of Wayne County (Doc. 44). Also before the Court
are three motions in limine by Plaintiff to preclude (1)
evidence related to plaintiffs work performance from
2011-2013 (Doc. 46); (2) evidence relating to a summary
offense result (Doc. 48); and (3) evidence related to
plaintiff's alcohol rehabilitation (Doc. 50).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to
rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance
of certain forecasted evidence." United States v.
Tartaglione, 228 F.Supp.3d 402, 406 (E.D. Pa. 2017). A
court may exercise 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).
Nevertheless, a "trial court should exclude evidence on
a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly
inadmissible on all potential grounds."
Tartaglione, 228 F.Supp.3d at 406. "[I]n 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).
while motions in limine may serve as a useful pretrial tool
that enables 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). Indeed, "motions 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. Stemtech Health Scis.,
Inc., 981 F.Supp.2d 273, 276 (D. Del. 2013). Moreover,
"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 in original).
Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence of
Defendant Botjer's Family Members' Employment (Doc.
argue that evidence relating to Defendant Vicky Botjer's
daughter and husband, both of whom work for Defendant Wayne
County, are irrelevant to Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff
counters that such evidence may show possible
"nepotism" at Wayne County, which would be relevant
to his retaliation claim. Doc. 53 at 3. Specifically,
Plaintiff claims that in retaliation for his First Amendment
conduct, Defendant Botjer took away Plaintiffs work tasks and
re-assigned them to her husband, and that "preferential
treatment of [Botjer's] daughter in not being disciplined
for engaging in misconduct is again evidence that Plaintiff
was singled out" for discipline in retaliation for his
actions in filing a report against Botjer. Id. at 4.
Plaintiff also points to the fact that Botjer's husband
is mentioned in the Amended Complaint. See Doc. 11
¶ 34 ("Also, Plaintiff has been removed from
performing electrical work on the Storebridge project; and in
turn, Defendant Botjer's husband has been performing the
work."). In a reply brief, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's retaliation claim stems solely from the
police report he filed, and have no bearing on employees who
"[worked] for the County after Plaintiff was no longer
employed." Doc. 62 at 3.
stage, it is unclear to the Court what the evidence relating
to Botjer's family members may demonstrate. The Court
also declines to adopt Defendants' narrow view of the
scope of trial-while it is true that Plaintiffs police report
may have initiated the alleged retaliation, the
limits of relevant evidence do not end there. The factfinder
is entitled to hear evidence of how Defendants may
have retaliated in response to the police report would be
relevant to Plaintiffs claim. The Court cannot make a final
determination as to the relevance of such evidence at this
time, especially since it is unclear when Botjer allegedly
reassigned Plaintiff's tasks to her husband, whether
Botjer was aware of Plaintiffs First Amendment conduct prior
to such reassignment, or whether Botjer's daughter was
similarly situated as Plaintiff, i.e. working similar tasks
as Plaintiff in a comparable department at Wayne County.
Rule of Evidence 401 provides that "[e]vidence is
relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or
less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b)
the fact is of consequence in determining the action."
Fed.R.Evid. 401. Federal Rule of Evidence 402 provides that
"[i]rrelevant evidence is not admissible."
Fed.R.Evid. 402. Without the benefit of knowing what the
evidence will show at trial, the Court cannot say that
Plaintiff will be unable to meet the low bar of relevancy.
The Court will decline to make a relevancy determination at
this time. See Walden, 126 F.3d at 518 n.10
(observing that a decision on a challenge to the relevancy of
evidence is often best reserved for trial).
Defendants also mention in passing that Plaintiff Exhibit 14
is "objectionable as offering no probative value, being
designed to harass and embarrass, and would result in unfair
prejudice, confusion of the issues, and mislead the
jury." Doc. 62 at 4. However, neither party attached the
photo nor explained what the photo purportedly shows in their
briefs. The exhibit is simply labeled as "Photo" in
Plaintiffs pretrial memorandum. Doc. 64-1 at 1. Thus, the
Court cannot make a relevancy determination as to the photo
at this time.
reasons stated above, the Court will defer ruling on
Defendants' motion to preclude evidence relating to
Defendant Botjer's family members' employment and
Plaintiff's exhibit 14. Defendants may raise this
objection at the appropriate time at trial.
to raise the objection, should the evidence adduced at trial
warrant it, will be deemed a waiver of the ...