United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER (1) BIFURCATING THE LIABILITY AND DAMAGES PHASES OF THE TRIAL and (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE (ECF NO. 45)
PAUL D. BORMAN, District Judge.
Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion in Limine. (ECF No. 45.) Defendants filed a Response. (ECF No. 46.) The Court has concluded that oral argument will not assist the Court in deciding the issues raised in the motion and therefore will resolve the matter on the parties' written submissions. E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow the Court (1) ORDERS bifurcation of the liability and damages phases of the trial in this matter and (2) GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's Motion in Limine.
Trial in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case is scheduled to begin on July 21, 2015. Plaintiff claims that Sgt. Pierog and Officer Johnson violated his constitutional rights when they used excessive force in arresting Plaintiff, who was offering no active resistance. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that the force used included a gratuitous "stomp" to Plaintiff's left knee, which caused his left knee patellar tendon to rupture, necessitating surgery and causing Plaintiff both economic and non-economic damages. The officers respond that neither one of them "stomped" on Plaintiff's knee and argue that Plaintiff's knee injury occurred either as he tried to jump a brick wall while fleeing from them or as he was pulled off the wall by officers and fell to the ground.
Plaintiff has filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude six "categories" of evidence: (1) date of employment of Plaintiff's attorneys; (2) prior injuries and/or unrelated medical condition of Plaintiff other than as directly related to injuries complained of in this action; (3) other claims and/or litigation; (4) attorney advertising; (5) prior convictions that are not felonies or involve crimes of dishonesty or false statement or are beyond the 10 year requirement; and (6) reference to the defense medical exam as an "Independent" medical exam.
Defendants have agreed not to oppose the motion to exclude evidence falling into categories (1), (4) or (6) and therefore the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to exclude such evidence. Thus, the only categories of evidence that remain contested are (2) and (3), which seek to exclude the same type of evidence, i.e. evidence related to prior injuries and/or claims/litigation related to those injuries, and will be analyzed together, and (5), which seeks to exclude evidence of prior crimes and/or convictions.
The Court DENIES the motion to exclude these general categories of evidence, both of which the Court finds could be relevant, but only to Plaintiff's damages claim. Because the Court cannot determine from Plaintiff's motion the exact nature of the evidence Defendants propose to introduce on these issues, the Court reserves until the damages phase of the trial any ruling on the admissibility of any particular testimony and/or exhibits that may fall into one of these two categories of evidence.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
"The Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure and interpretive rulings of the Supreme Court and this court all encourage, and in some cases require, parties and the court to utilize extensive pretrial procedures - including motions in limine - in order to narrow the issues remaining for trial and to minimize disruptions at trial." United States v. Brawner, 173 F.3d 966, 970 (6th Cir. 1999). District courts have broad discretion over matters involving the admissibility of evidence at trial. United States v. Seago, 930 F.2d 482, 494 (6th Cir. 1991).
A. Bifurcation of the Liability and Damages Phases of the Trial
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has summarized the relevant considerations for ordering bifurcation of a trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b):
A court may bifurcate a trial in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conductive to expedition and economy. In determining whether separate trials are appropriate, the court should consider several facts, including the potential prejudice to the parties, the possible confusion of the jurors, and the resulting convenience and economy.
Wilson v. Morgan,
477 F.3d 326, 339 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted); Saxion v. Titan-C-Mfg., Inc., 86 F.3d 553, 556 (6th Cir. 1996) (recognizing that a decision to bifurcate is discretionary and need only meet one of the criteria of Rule 42(b) and noting ...