United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. CARLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, “R.D., ” commenced this action on June
3, 2016, alleging that the defendant, Shohola, Inc., is
liable to him for the injuries he incurred when he was
sexually assaulted on one of the defendant's overnight
camping trips. The parties are currently preparing for trial
on the remaining negligence claims in this lawsuit. As trial
approaches, the parties have filed some 28 motions in
limine, including one motion filed by the plaintiff,
(Doc. 301), and 27 motions submitted by the defendant. (Docs.
turn to consideration of one of these motions. Defense motion
in limine Number 3 asks the court to enter a
pre-trial order seeking two forms of relief: (1) an order
barring all reference to insurance coverage information and
(2) exclusion of any evidence relating to Shohola's
insurance agent, Morris Gold, in the presence of the jury.
(Doc. 304). For his part, the plaintiff does not object to an
order precluding references to Shohola's insurance
coverage, but R.D. does object to a complete exclusion of any
reference to Mr. Gold at this trial, alleging that Gold
provided Shohola staff with training regarding sexual abuse,
a matter which would be highly relevant to the issues in his
case. In particular, R.D. observes that Shohola's
co-director Duncan Barger has stated that Morris Gold
“speaks at our camp orientation every year”.
(Doc. 366 at 6). According to Barger, Gold: “provides
us advice and he speaks at our counselor orientation.”
(Id.) Barger has also stated that Gold spoke to camp
personnel about issues directly relevant to this litigation.
Specifically, Gold's training sessions at Camp Shohola
included the following: “he talked about the fact that
sexual abuse is not only between adults and children, but
that it can also be between children.” (Id.)
Barger further confirmed that sexual abuse was discussed at
every annual training for the camp's staff, including in
the year 2007, “without a doubt”. (Id.)
Thus, Barger's unequivocal testimony indicates that
Gold's staff training related directly to issues that are
highly relevant in this case: camp staff awareness of the
potential for sexual abuse by and between juvenile campers.
Barger's testimony having framed the relevance of this
evidence for us, this motion has been briefed and argued by
the parties and is, therefore, ripe for resolution. (Doc.
366). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED
in part, and DENIED in part.
Motions in Limine-Guiding Principles
Court is vested with broad inherent authority to manage its
cases, which carries with it the discretion and authority to
rule on motions in limine prior to trial. See
Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984);
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 (1986) (the court exercises
its discretion to rule in limine on evidentiary
issues “in appropriate cases”). Courts may
exercise this discretion in order to ensure that juries are
not exposed to unfairly prejudicial, confusing or irrelevant
evidence. United States v. Romano, 849 F.2d 812, 815
(3d Cir. 1988). Courts may also do so in order to
“narrow the evidentiary issues for trial and to
eliminate unnecessary trial interruptions.” Bradley
v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Educ., 913 F.2d 1064, 1069 (3d Cir.
1990) (citation omitted). However, courts should be careful
before doing so.
considering motions in limine which call upon the
Court to engage in preliminary evidentiary rulings under Rule
403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, we begin by recognizing
that these “evidentiary rulings [on motions in
limine] are subject to the trial judge's discretion
and are therefore reviewed only for abuse of discretion . . .
. Additionally, application of the balancing test under
Federal Rule of Evidence 403 will not be disturbed unless it
is ‘arbitrary and irrational.' ” Abrams
Inc., 50 F.3d 1204, 1213 (3d Cir. 1995) (citations
omitted); see Bernardsville Bd. of Educ. v.
J.H., 42 F.3d 149, 161 (3d Cir. 1994) (reviewing
in limine rulings for abuse of discretion).
Yet, while these decisions regarding the exclusion of
evidence rest in the sound discretion of the district court
and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion,
the exercise of that discretion is guided by certain basic
the key guiding principles is reflected in the philosophy
which shapes the rules of evidence. The Federal Rules of
Evidence can aptly be characterized as evidentiary rules of
inclusion, which are designed to broadly permit fact-finders
to consider pertinent factual information while searching for
the truth. The inclusionary quality of the rules, and their
permissive attitude towards the admission of evidence, is
embodied in three cardinal concepts. The first of these
concepts is Rule 401's definition of relevant evidence.
Rule 401 defines what is relevant in an expansive fashion,
“Relevant evidence” means evidence having any
tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of
consequence to the determination of the action more probable
or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
Fed. R. Evid. 401.
this broad view of relevance, it has been held that:
“Under [Rule] 401, evidence is relevant if it has
‘any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is
of consequence to the determination of the action more
probable or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.' [Therefore] ‘[i]t follows that evidence
is irrelevant only when it has no tendency to prove the fact.
Thus the rule, while giving judges great freedom to admit
evidence, diminishes substantially their authority to exclude
evidence as irrelevant.' ...