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Dixon v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 8, 2017

JOSEPH DIXON, Plaintiff,
v.
GRAND TRUNK WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER RESOLVING MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The parties collectively filed 49 motions in limine: 43 from Defendant and six from Plaintiff. The Court has reviewed the motions and finds that a hearing is unnecessary.

         As the Court noted at the Final Pretrial Conference when it urged the parties to avoid engaging in expensive and pointless pretrial motion practice: motions in limine serve particular purposes. By making evidentiary rulings ahead of trial, the Court can facilitate wise preparation by the parties and prepare a smooth path for trial-particularly by casting aside inadmissible evidence that might confuse or prejudice the jury. See Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. of Mich., Inc., 482 F.Supp.2d 861, 865 (E.D. Mich. 2007). Motions in limine are meant to deal with discrete evidentiary issues related to trial, and are not "procedural devices for the wholesale disposition of theories or defenses." Dunn ex rel. Albery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 264 F.R.D. 266, 274 (E.D. Mich. 2009) (citation omitted). For that reason, "[o]rders in limine which exclude broad categories of evidence should rarely be employed. A better practice is to deal with questions of admissibility of evidence as they arise." Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975).

         The matters contained in the motions are largely uncontested. The parties' disputes arise over how the contested evidence will be used at trial. The reasons behind the parties' motions are not entirely misplaced; at trial, some of evidence will likely be excluded, or limited to particular purposes. But none of the evidence described in the motions is inflammatory or otherwise so irreversibly prejudicial that the jury could not be properly instructed on how to consider or disregard it. There is therefore little need to limit the introduction of evidence and testimony in advance, particularly on the scale urged by the parties. In contrast, granting even a modest portion of the relief sought in the parties' motions would create a minefield of predetermined yet open-ended evidentiary rulings; that disposition would lead to more disputes and sidebars at trial, rather than fewer-ironically resulting in the "mini trials" both parties profess a desire to avoid.

         The Court will briefly resolve each of the pending motions with the foregoing reasoning in mind.

         I. Defendant's Motions

         MIL 1 (ECF 80) - Denied

         Defendant does not seek relief in the motion.

         MIL 2 (ECF 81) - Granted

         Plaintiff does not seem to oppose the relief requested and there is no relevance in testimony or argument that the Plaintiff is either entitled to or has received benefits from other sources.

         MIL 3 (ECF 82) - Granted in part

         In light of Plaintiff's concession in his response brief, he is precluded from offering evidence or mentioning Defendant's size, revenue, state of incorporation, or the location of its headquarters, other than for the limited purposes of (1) comparing it to other railroads which have implemented ergonomic controls and (2) showing that it has the resources to implement a particular program or control.

         MIL 4 (ECF 83) - Granted

         In light of Plaintiff's concession in his response brief, he is precluded from making the erroneous claim that he must prove only "slight negligence."

         MIL 5 (ECF 84) - Denied

         The protective measures sought by Defendant are too ambiguous to meaningfully assist in conducting the trial. The parties may object to testimony concerning Plaintiff's behavior during trial and the Court will rule on the objections individually.

         MIL 6 (ECF 85) - Denied without prejudice

         The protections sought by Defendant are premature. If, after any testimony on damages but prior to closing arguments, Defendant remains concerned about the potential content of Plaintiff's closing argument, it may bring its concerns to the Court again, out of the jury's hearing.

         MIL 7 (ECF 86) - Denied

         The Defendant's concerns can be most properly and adequately addressed through jury instructions. A preemptive limit on testimony is unnecessary.

         MIL 8 (ECF 87) - Denied

         Defendant does not seek relief in the motion.

         MIL 9 (ECF 88) - Denied

         Defendant does not seek relief in the motion.

         MIL 10 (ECF 89) - Denied

         The Defendant's concerns can be most properly and adequately addressed through jury instructions, and, if necessary, objections. A preemptive limit on testimony is unnecessary.

         MIL 11 (ECF 90) - Granted

         The Defendant's payment of medical bills is irrelevant to the claims here. The Court will grant the motion. If Plaintiff wishes to revisit the issue, he may bring the evidence to the Court's attention on the morning he intends to introduce it, out of the hearing of the jury.

         MIL 12 (ECF 91) - Denied

         Evidence of safer alternatives could be relevant in determining whether Defendant was negligent. Defendant's insistence that Plaintiff has no such evidence may prove true, but it is no reason to preclude such evidence wholesale and in advance of Plaintiff attempting to introduce it.

         MIL 13 (ECF 92) - Granted in part, denied in part

         Defendant conceded that at the time of its reply, Plaintiff still had "ample time to produce the exhibits and, if necessary, produce the witnesses through whom plaintiff intends to introduce them for supplementary telephone depositions." ECF 181, PgID 4080. Defendant therefore requested that the Court "exclude any exhibit not timely produced to its counsel." Id. at 4081. Some time has passed since the reply was filed, so the Court will mostly deny the motion without any finding of what specific pieces of evidence were or were not timely produced. The ...


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