The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the parties' motions in limine.
Plaintiff Commonwealth Insurance Company ("Commonwealth") has filed ll
motions; Defendant Stone Container Corporation ("Stone") has filed five.
Stone manufactures pulp, paper, and paper products. Part of the
manufacturing process involves pulp digesters, which turn wood chips into
pulp using chemicals, heat, and pressure. On April 13, 1994, a pulp
digester exploded in Stone's plant in Panama City, Florida, killing
several employees and causing an alleged $84 million of damage. Stone had obtained insurance for the calendar year 1994 with the
aid of a professional corporate insurance broker, Rollins Hudig Hall of
Illinois, Inc. (now Aon Risk Services, Inc. of Illinois ("Aon")). Stone
ultimately obtained a patchwork of insurance coverage for the 1994 year
that was split among different insurers, at different layers of coverage,
and between different types of insurance. For the first $20 million of
damage, Stone was covered for all risks including boiler and machinery
risks. Stone has received the full proceeds under these policies. For
damages in excess of $20 million, coverage was split between boiler and
machinery insurance provided by Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and
Insurance Company ("HSB") and all-risk insurance, excluding boiler and
machinery risks, provided by several insurers including Commonwealth.
In February 1995 Commonwealth, along with several of Stone's other
insurers, filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that their
policies did not cover Stone's losses incurred at the Panama City plant.
This suit was dismissed without prejudice so Stone could pursue an action
solely against HSB (the boiler and machinery insurer for damages in
excess of $20 million). Stone obtained summary judgment against HSB at
the trial level but lost on a reversal by the Court of Appeals. Stone
Container Corp. v. Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Ins., 165 F.3d 1157
(7th Cir. 1999)(Stone II) rev'g Stone Container Corp. v. Hartford Steam Bolier Inspection and
Ins., 936 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (Stone I).
After the Seventh Circuit decided Stone II. Commonwealth and Stone's
other insurers renewed their declaratory judgment action against Stone.
Stone filed counterclaims as well as third-party claims against Aon and
another party. After ensuing motions for summary judgment and
settlements, only Commonwealth and Stone remain.
At the time of the accident, Commonwealth had not yet issued a policy.
As a temporary memorialization of its agreement to insure Stone, it
issued an insurance binder. All the binder stated with respect to boiler
and machinery perils was "B & M Sub-Limit $20,000,000." In deciding
the most recent motion for summary judgment, we determined this language
to be ambiguous, necessitating a trial to determine what the parties
actually intended in entering the insurance agreement. The parties have
filed a final pretrial order, which includes several motions in limine.
The power to exclude evidence pursuant to motions in limine is part and
parcel of a district court's authority to manage trials. Falk v. Kimberly
Servs., 1997 WL 201568, * l (N.D. Ill. Apr. 16, 1997), Motions in limine
should be granted only when the evidence under attack is clearly
inadmissible on all potential grounds. Hawthorne Partners v. A.T. & T. Technologies. Inc. 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D.
Ill. 1993). The admissibility of some proposed evidence cannot be
determined without a proper frame of reference, and motions in limine
pertaining to such evidence should be denied. See Tzoumis v. Tempel Steel
Co., 168 F. Supp.2d 871, 873 (N.D. Ill. 2001). Of course, such a denial
does not mandate that the subject evidence be admitted at trial; rather,
it allows the court to address pertinent questions of admissibility
within a proper context. Hawthorne Partners. 831 F. Supp. at 1400-01.
Moreover, a district court can alter a previous ruling on a motion in
limine. Luce v. U.S. 49 U.S. 38, 41-42, 105 S.Ct. 460 (1984). With these
principles in mind, we address the motions before us.
A. Commonwealth's Motions
1. Motion #1: Testimony Regarding Bodily Injuries and Deaths
Commonwealth moves to omit from the trial any evidence of the injuries
and deaths caused in the Panama City incident. They correctly point out
that this evidence is immaterial to any of the issues remaining in this
case. Stone agrees with this ...