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Tomao v. Abbott Laboratories

January 16, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nan R. Nolan


Plaintiff Carol Tomao has filed suit alleging that Abbott Laboratories ("Abbott"), incorrectly named as Abbott Laboratories, Inc., failed to hire her as a contract Asset Technician because of her age and disability in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and retaliated against her for complaining about the unlawful discrimination. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Currently before the court are the parties' motions in limine. For the reasons set forth here, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.


A motion in limine is "any motion, whether made before or during trial, to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually offered." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984). District courts have broad discretion in ruling on motions in limine, but evidence should not be excluded before trial unless it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Gage v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chicago, 365 F. Supp. 2d 919, 926 (N.D. Ill. 2005) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 n.4). Otherwise, rulings should be deferred until trial so questions of foundation, competency, relevancy, and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context. Id. A court's decision to deny a motion in limine does not mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. "Rather, denial means the court cannot determine whether the evidence should be excluded outside the trial context. This is particularly the case when a motion in limine is 'based on unsupported representations.'" McClain v. Anchor Packing Co., No. 89 C 6226, 1996 WL 164385, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 3, 1996) (quoting Wolfe v. Howmedica, Inc., No. 94 C 4117, 1996 WL 10901, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 1996)).

In the Final Pretrial Order, both parties have set forth enumerated paragraphs purporting to be their motions in limine, but which contain no legal theory or support. The parties have also submitted separate briefs entitled Motions in Limine. The court will only consider those motions in limine that both appear in the separate briefs and include appropriate legal argument and support. See United States v. Wimberly, 60 F.3d 281, 287 (7th Cir. 1995) ("This circuit has repeatedly warned litigants that perfunctory and undeveloped arguments, and arguments that are unsupported by pertinent authority, are waived.")

A. Plaintiff's Motions in Limine

Plaintiff has submitted five motions in limine regarding (1) any alleged accommodation granted during Plaintiff's employment; (2) Plaintiff's alleged friendship with William Whitaker; (3) back pay, front pay, mitigation of damages, and statutory damages caps; (4) Plaintiff's age-related comments; and (5) collateral sources of income. The court addresses each in turn.

1. Employment Accommodation

Plaintiff asks the court to bar testimony, evidence, or argument suggesting that Defendant accommodated Plaintiff's medical conditions. This includes evidence that Defendant provided Plaintiff with a laptop computer so that she could work from home in early 2002 due to a broken foot; and that Defendant allowed Plaintiff to take days off from work for purposes of medical treatment. Plaintiff notes that there is no failure to accommodate claim at issue here and argues that any probative value associated with evidence of the accommodations is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury. Defendant denies that Plaintiff was a qualified person with a disability under the ADA or that it "accommodated" her under the Act. Nevertheless, Defendant argues that its actions when Plaintiff broke her foot and requested time off "bear[] on the issue of Abbott's intent and motive." (Def. Resp., at 4.)

The court agrees with Plaintiff that the cited evidence is only marginally relevant and would tend to confuse the issues or mislead the jury as to Plaintiff's claims. See FED. R. EVID. 403.

Plaintiffs' motion in limine is granted.

2. Plaintiff's Friendship with William Whitaker

Plaintiff next seeks to bar evidence regarding her alleged friendship with William Whitaker, Abbott's Asset Administration Group Leader. Plaintiff objects that such evidence is immaterial, prejudicial, and misleading "in that [the] purpose of such evidence is for no reason other than to imply that Whitaker would not discriminate against his alleged friend." (Motion, at 1.) To the extent Plaintiff reported directly to Whitaker, who interviewed Plaintiff for the Asset Technician position and was involved in the decision not to hire her, Plaintiff's interactions and relationship with Whitaker is relevant to her claims of discrimination. The motion in limine is denied.

3. Equitable Remedies, Mitigation, and Statutory Caps

In her third motion in limine, Plaintiff objects to the admission of any evidence regarding back pay, front pay, reinstatement, mitigation of damages, and statutory damages caps. According to Plaintiff, the decision whether to award equitable remedies, or to impose equitable limitations on those remedies, is for the judge and not the jury. (Motion, at 1) (citing Williams v. Pharmacia, Inc., 137 F.3d 944, 951 (7th Cir. 1998) (district court properly decided issue of front pay on its own rather than submitting it to the jury).) Plaintiff also argues that the jury should not be advised as to her claimed compensatory or punitive damages because the ...

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