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Brooks v. Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

November 22, 2017

BEAU BROOKS and TINA BROOKS PLAINTIFFS
v.
CATERPILLAR GLOBAL MINING AMERICA, LLC DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC, to preclude evidence of and/or reference to treatment and billings for psychological conditions [DN 144] and on a motion by Plaintiffs, Beau Brooks and Tina Brooks, to preclude irrelevant and prejudicial evidence related to Plaintiff's feelings and opinions regarding defense counsel [DN 162]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a product-liability case against Defendant, Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC (“CGM”), arising out of an accident that happened in May of 2013. Plaintiff, Beau Brooks, a Western Kentucky coal miner, sustained injuries to his left hand when his hand was crushed between a rib of coal and a Caterpillar RB220 Roof Bolter. Plaintiffs allege that the injury occurred because Brooks was holding onto the operator handle of the roof bolter that extended his hand beyond the roof and outside the protective operator compartment. Plaintiffs contend that the crush injuries would not have occurred if CGM's operator handle had not been located so close to the edge of the roof bolter's operator compartment that Brooks left hand was left unprotected.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant's Motion to Exclude Evidence of/Reference to Treatment and Billings for Psychological Conditions [DN 144]

         1. Previous Motion in Limine

         In a previous motion in limine [DN 118], Plaintiffs moved to preclude the testimony of psychiatrist Dr. David Shraberg at trial. Dr. Shraberg testified that he evaluated Brooks on August 31, 2015, to determine if Beau had any permanent psychiatric impairments related to the injury he had sustained two years earlier. Dr. Shraberg determined that Brooks did not suffer “permanent psychiatric impairments from the accident.” (Shraberg January 24, 2017, Dep. at 18.) In the motion in limine and in an affidavit attached to it, Plaintiff Beau Brooks represented that he was “not claiming any specific psychological impairments from” his accident and was “not seeking compensation for any specific medically diagnosed psychological problems from” his accident. (DN 118-3.)

         Defendant objected to the exclusion of the testimony of Dr. Shraberg. The Court agreed with the Defendant that it was somewhat puzzling for Plaintiffs to assert that Brooks is not claiming any “specific diagnosable psychological injury” and at the same time include, among their witnesses and exhibits, providers who have diagnosed him with “specific diagnosable psychological injury” and have prescribed drugs specifically for the treatment of those psychological conditions. Ultimately, the Court held that “[i]n cases in which a plaintiff asserts present and future mental pain and suffering, expert testimony regarding his current and future psychological or mental condition is relevant.” (DN 142 at 14.) The Court agreed with the Defendant that “Dr. Shraberg's testimony is relevant because it addresses and rebuts the Chaney/Fleming [Beau's treating medical providers] evidence that suggests a causal link between plaintiff's injury and the psychological conditions that they diagnosed and for which they prescribed him medication.” (Id.)

         2. Current Motion in Limine

         Defendant now moves to preclude the evidence and/or reference to treatment and billings for psychological conditions. Specifically, Defendant points to numerous references to Beau's diagnosis of and treatment of psychological impairments or specific psychological injuries, including: the records and portions of the anticipated testimony of Dr. Brian Chaney[1], the records and portions of the anticipated testimony of nurse practitioner, Kristy Fleming, prescriptions for and pharmacy records of drugs used to treat “psychological impairments or specific psychological injuries, ” and medical expenses attributable to the treatment of “psychological impairments or specific psychological injuries.”

         In support of its motion, Defendant cites to the affidavit of Beau in his previous motion in limine in which he affirmatively states that he is not seeking compensation for any specific medically diagnosed psychological problems. Additionally, Defendant cites a recently filed response by Plaintiff to Defendant's request for admissions in which Plaintiff admits that “as a result of the accident, Beau Brooks has not sustained or experienced any psychological impairments or specific psychological injuries for which he contends CGM is liable.” (Ex. 1, Motion in Limine, DN 144.) Defendant maintains that if Plaintiff is not claiming that the subject accident caused these mental conditions, then any evidence that Beau has been diagnosed and treated for such conditions is irrelevant to this case.

         Plaintiffs object in part to the motion in limine. Plaintiffs represent that they do not plan to present claims for specific psychological impairments, such as mood disorder or excessive anger. Plaintiffs indicate that Beau's anger and mood disorder problems pre-exist the mine injuries. However, Plaintiffs object to this motion to the extent it would prevent Beau from presenting medical expenses related to treatment or medication for the mental pain and suffering related to his left hand injuries. For example, Plaintiffs indicate that Beau should be able to present bills related to Cymbalta. According to Plaintiffs, Dr. Chaney's medical records indicate that Cymbalta “will help with the neuropathic pain in his hand along with treating the anxiety symptoms.” Because Dr. Chaney prescribed Cymbalta for both pain and anxiety, Plaintiffs contend the medical records and bills relating to the prescription of the Cymbalta are relevant to the case. Additionally, Plaintiffs argue that the January 2014 visit with Dr. Chaney is only seven or eight months after the injury and the “generalized anxiety” including high blood pressure and coping issues are part of the pain and suffering one would expect after losing a finger and having multiple crush injuries to one's hand.

         Plaintiffs also indicate that nurse practitioner Fleming currently prescribes Beau Gabapentin and Neurontin for his neuropathic hand pain for which Beau will seek recovery. (Ex. A., DN 184, Fleming 7/17 records.) Beau will not seek recovery for Zoloft and Prozac prescribed for mood disorder. Beau represents that he is prescribed Xanex by Fleming both to help him sleep and for his excessive anger issues. To the extent the Xanex helps Beau cope with sleeping through his hand pain, Plaintiffs contend that it is relevant to his injuries. Plaintiffs argue that records which may include ...


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