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Smith v. Walle Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

November 5, 2014

DEMING SMITH, Plaintiff,


DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Walle Corporation's ("Walle") motion in limine requesting this Court to limit certain evidence at trial and to determine whether Plaintiff Deming Smith is entitled to certain categories of damages. [Record No. 17] For the reasons set forth below, Walle's motion in limine will be granted, in part, and denied, in part.


Smith claims age-related discrimination by Walle in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act ("KCRA"), KRS Chapter 344, et seq. Following the Court's resolution of Walle's motion for summary judgment, several claims remain for trial, including: whether Walle discriminated against Smith by awarding raises to Smith's younger counterparts while denying those raises to Smith because of his age; and whether Smith was transferred and eventually terminated because he filed an EEOC Complaint regarding discrepancies in wage increases.

Through its motion, Walle seeks to exclude at trial: (i) certain testimony by Smith based on speculation; (ii) alleged hearsay statements of witness Shane Lurty; and (iii) the conclusions and findings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission ("KUIC"). Walle also argues that Smith should be precluded from introducing damages of emotional distress at trial and that Smith is not entitled to front pay.


While the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to a district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). Although a party can ask the Court to make an in limine ruling on evidentiary matters, it is within the Court's discretion to do so. In short, there is no right to an in limine ruling. Huddleston v. United States, 485 U.S. 681, 688-89 (1988). In fact, a ruling on a motion in limine is nothing more than a preliminary opinion which allows the parties to better formulate their trial strategy. United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994); Gresh v. Waste Servs. of America, 738 F.Supp.2d 702, 706 (E.D. Ky. 2010) ("The district judge... has the sound discretion to alter or amend a previous in limine ruling at trial."). In fact, a court may "exclude evidence in limine only when evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." Indiana Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec., Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Unless this high standard is met, rulings will be deferred until trial. Id.


A. Testimony based on speculation will be excluded.

Smith's deposition testimony regarding Walle's motivation for age-based discrimination is largely based on what he "surmised, " or "conjecture, " or his "feelings" about what was happening and why. Walle argues that testimony based on this speculation should be excluded during trial. Walle correctly argues that Smith must come forward with more than speculation or conjecture in support of his claims. See Hein v. All America Plywood Co., Inc., 232 F.3d 482, 488 (6th Cir. 2000). However, Smith has come forward with sufficient evidence, above and beyond his own testimony, to submit his claims to the jury. Whether Smith's testimony is admissible remains an issue separate from whether Smith has produced sufficient evidence to carry his burden to overcome summary judgment.

While, alone, Smith's testimony referenced by Walle may be inadmissible, the Court can anticipate a number of circumstances in which a proper foundation could be established to allow Smith to provide some form of opinion testimony at trial. To the extent that Smith intends to testify at trial without the proper factual evidentiary basis and outside of the parameters of relevant admissible opinion testimony as described in Federal Rules of Evidence 401, 403 and 701, his testimony will be excluded. Nonetheless, the Court recognizes the "practical difficulty in ruling on such motions [in] the absence of context that comes when the challenged evidence is presented with the other proofs at trial." Figgins v. Advance America Cash Advance Ctrs., 482 F.Supp.2d 861, 865 (E.D. Mich. 2007).

In short, Walle has failed to show that there is no set of circumstances under which Smith may present opinion testimony during trial. The Court will defer ruling "until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Indiana Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846. Accordingly, the Court declines Walle's invitation to exclude Smith's testimony in limine.

2. Hearsay statements by Shane Lurty

In support of his summary judgment motion, Smith submitted two written statements by Shane Lurty which contained statements attributed to Allen Dummit and Natalie Bailey regarding Smith and the basis for the wage increase discrepancy. [Record Nos. 14-2, 14-3, 33-1] Walle argues that these statements are inadmissible hearsay and, further, that they are isolated remarks by nondecisionmakers, meaning that they are not relevant to the issues before the jury. Smith counters that the necessary parties will be available at trial and argues that ...

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