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 30 motions in
limine, including two motions filed by the plaintiff,
(Doc. 301, 347), and 28 motions submitted by the defendant.
(Docs. 302-327, 360).
turn to consideration of three of these motions. Defense
motion in limine Number 4 asks the court to enter a
pre-trial order forbidding speaking objections. (Doc. 305).
Defense motion in limine Number 5, in turn, asks
that we forbid parties from referring to excluded evidence at
trial. (Doc. 306). Finally, defense motion in limine
Number 19 alleges that the deposition of the plaintiff's
father, an attorney, may have descended into an inappropriate
and ad hominem exchange at times, and asks that we enter an
order prescribing proper decorum between counsel and this
witness at trial. (Doc. 321).
motions are fully briefed and argued by the parties and are,
therefore, ripe for resolution. (Doc. 366). For the reasons
set forth below, the motions are GRANTED in part, and
DEFERRED 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
v. Lightolier 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 principles.
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.' ” Frank v. County of
Hudson, 924 F.Supp. 620, 626 (D.N.J. 1996) (citing
Spain v. Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 452 (3d Cir. 1994)
quality of inclusion embraced by the Federal Rules of
Evidence, favoring the admission of potentially probative
proof in all of its forms, is further buttressed by Rule 402,
which generally defines the ...