United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Swift
Transportation and Tevin Davis', collectively
(“Defendants”), Motion in Limine to Exclude
“Reptile Theory” and “Golden Rule”
Arguments and Evidence. [DN 63.] Plaintiff, Tiffany Locke
(“Locke”) has responded. [DN 73.] The time to
reply has passed. As such, this matter is ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendants Motion
in Limine is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
in limine provided in advance of trial are appropriate if
they eliminate evidence that has no legitimate use at trial
for any purpose. Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family
Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir.1997); Bouchard
v. Am. Home Products Corp., 213 F.Supp.2d 802, 810
(N.D.Ohio 2002) (“The court has the power to exclude
evidence in limine only when evidence is clearly inadmissible
on all potential grounds.” (citing Luce v. United
States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d
443 (1984))). Only where the evidence satisfies this high bar
should the court exclude it; if not, “rulings [on
evidence] should be deferred until trial 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) (quoting
Ind. Ins. Co. v. GE, 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846
(N.D.Ohio 2004)). Even if a motion in limine is denied, the
court may revisit the decision at trial when the parties have
more thoroughly presented the disputed evidence. See
Id. (“Denial of a motion in limine does not
guarantee that the evidence will be admitted at trial, and
the court will hear objections to such evidence as they arise
ask this Court to prevent Locke from using the “Reptile
Theory” during trial. This theory encourages attorneys
to play to the jurors' survival instincts and protect
themselves and the community from the actions of the
tortfeasor. Defendants argue that if Locke uses this strategy
and is successful, the jurors will determine the case not
based on the facts but based on a plea to their emotions.
Defendants seek to exclude several categories of evidence
Questions, evidence, and arguments suggesting the duty of
care owed by Defendants should be based on “safety
rules, ” “reckless behavior, ”
“inherently dangerous or ultrahazardous activities,
” and preventing “danger” rather than the
applicable standard of care.
do not state what specific evidence they want excluded.
Safety rules are relevant to this case. Mentioning the
relevant safety rules and policies would not unfairly
prejudice Defendants. However, the Court will be cognizant of
any attempt by either party to supplant the required standard
of care with appeals to the jury's emotion. Any such
appeal will not be permitted. Therefore, this motion in
limine is DENIED.
Testimony concerning or related to putting profits over
safety and communication shortfalls within the trucking
industry and any correlation between them.
response, Locke states that this motion in limine is purely
argument-based and should be denied. Federal Rule of Evidence
402 prohibits the admission of irrelevant evidence. Testimony
about shortfalls within the trucking industry in general
would not be relevant to any issues in this case. Evidence
that is relevant to the issue of negligence is admissible.
The Court is unclear what “shortfalls” means.
Defendant may make objections to evidence that is not
relevant. Shortfalls of Swift that are relevant to this
action would be admissible. Therefore, this motion in limine
is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Questions, evidence, and arguments at trial that encourage
the jury either directly or indirectly to “send a
message”/protect the public/punish with their verdict.
argue that any statements directing the jury to “send a
message”, protect the community, or punish with its
verdict is improper and encourages the jury to make moral or
social judgments rather than determining the facts.
Defendants also state that these arguments appeal to the
passions of the jurors. In response, Locke argues that the
jury's purpose is to serve as the conscience of the
community. Here, the Court finds that statements to the jury
suggesting it should “send a message” to
Defendants could be highly prejudicial. Pleas for the jury to
send a message often become an “improper distraction
from the jury's sworn duty to reach a fair, honest and
just verdict.” Strickland v. Owens Corning,142 F.3d 353, 358-359 (6th Cir. 1998). These types of
arguments are disfavored in this circuit. See Brooks v.
Caterpillar Global Mining Am., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
125095 *23 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 8, 2017). Punitive damages in this
case have also been dismissed. Locke's argument ...