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Bishop v. Anderson

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

September 18, 2018

GERRY L. BISHOP Plaintiff
v.
DAVID A. ANDERSON, R&L TRANSFER, INC., R&L CARRIER SHARED SERVICES, LLC, and GREENWOOD MOTOR LINES, INC. Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon multiple motions in limine filed by the Defendants David Anderson, R&L Transfer, Inc., R&L Carrier Shared Services, LLC, and Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. (R. 51-55). Plaintiff has responded. (R. 65). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion in Limine to Limit the Description of the Subject Accident (R. 51) is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART, and the rest of Defendants' motions in limine are GRANTED.

         Background

         A semi-truck collided with Gerry Bishop's vehicle in Oak Grove Kentucky in January of 2015 causing him various injuries. (R. 1). Bishop brought a negligence suite against the truck's driver, David Anderson, along with R&L Transfer (the company that owns the truck), Greenwood Motor Lines (the company that leases the truck from R&L Transfer), and R&L Carrier Shared Services (the Company that employed Anderson during the accident). (R. 1; R. 42). All three companies are related business entities. The Defendants do not dispute liability, leaving damages as the sole issue for trial. (R. 47). The Defendants filed five motions in limine. (R. 51-55). Bishop opposes three of them. (R. 65).

         Legal Standard

         Using the inherent authority to manage the course of trials before it, this Court may exclude irrelevant, inadmissible, or prejudicial evidence through in limine rulings. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c)); Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 561 (6th Cir. 2013); Mahaney ex rel. Estate of Kyle v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 835 F.Supp.2d 299, 303 (W.D. Ky. 2011). Unless such evidence is patently “inadmissible for any purpose, ” Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997), though, the “better practice” is to defer evidentiary rulings until trial, Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975), so that “questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context, ” Gresh v. Waste Servs. of Am., Inc., 738 F.Supp.2d 702, 706 (E.D. Ky. 2010). A ruling in limine is “no more than a preliminary, or advisory, opinion.” United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Luce, 713 F.2d 1236, 1239 (6th Cir. 1983), aff'd, 469 U.S. 38). Consequently, the Court may revisit its in limine rulings at any time and “for whatever reason it deems appropriate.” Id. (citing Luce, 713 F.2d at 1239).

         Discussion Defendants filed five motions in limine (R.51-55), but Bishop only opposes three: Defendants' Motions in Limine to Limit the Description of the Subject Accident (R. 51), Defendants' Motion in Limine as to Various Issues and Evidence (R. 54), and Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Improper References to Defendants' Trial Counsel or the Cost of Defendants' Defense. The Court will grant the unopposed motions and address each opposed motion respectively (R.52).

         I. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Limit the Description of the Subject Accident

         With their Motion in Limine to Limit the Description of the Subject Accident the Defendants move the Court for an order prohibiting any potential testimony regarding the accident, including how fast the semi-truck was going and whether it slowed down prior to impact. (R. 51). Defendants also seek to prohibit any testimony as to why the semi-truck was unable to stop or slow prior to impact. (R.51). Defendants argue these details are irrelevant because they conceded liability. (R.51). They also point out that no accident reconstructionist has been hired and Bishop has no scientific evidence to establish the semi-truck's speed or whether it braked prior to impact. (R.51).

         Bishop responds simply that he, and his eyewitness to the collision, should be permitted to describe the accident as they observed it, including perceived speed and whether the vehicles were braking prior to collision. (R. 65). The Court agrees.

         Any potential testimony by Bishop or his eyewitness concerning details of the accident, including how fast the semi-truck was going or whether it braked, constitutes lay witness opinion testimony governed by Rule 701. That Rule provides:

If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is:
(a) rationally based on the witness's perception;
(b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized ...

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