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Jimenez v. United States

August 14, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge



The Court has before it several motions in limine filed by the parties in anticipation of trial. The Court will address each in turn.

I. Standard of Review

District courts have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions presented before trial on motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). The power to exclude evidence in limine derives from this Court's authority to manage trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). Evidence should be excluded in limine only where it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Id. "Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Thus, the party moving to exclude evidence in limine has the burden of establishing that the evidence is not admissible for any purpose. Id. Denial of a motion in limine does not mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Id. at 1401. Rather, denial simply means the court cannot determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded outside of the trial context. United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989); Broom v. Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, 867 F. Supp. 686, 690-91 (N.D. Ill. 1994). Accordingly, this Court will entertain objections as they arise at trial, even if the proffer falls within the scope of a denied motion in limine. See also Robenhorst v. Dematic Corp., 2008 WL 1766525, at *2 (N.D. Ill. April 14, 2008).

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine Regarding Immigration Status

Plaintiffs filed a motion in limine [57] seeking to bar any testimony concerning the immigration status of any of the Plaintiffs as irrelevant to any matter at issue, including Defendant's liability and the scope of injuries sustained by any of the Plaintiffs. The Court fails to see how Plaintiffs' immigration status can bear on any of those issues. Moreover, it appears, from Defendant's response brief as well as from defense counsel's comments at the final pre-trial conference on July 30, 2008, that Defendant proposes to use such testimony only to rebut certain proposed opinion testimony of one of Plaintiffs' witnesses, Dr. Hector Machabanski, concerning what Plaintiffs told him about how the accident has affected their lives. As explained below, the Court will exclude the testimony of Dr. Machabanski to the extent that his testimony is offered to "tell [Plaintiffs'] story" to the Court in regard to how their lives have been affected by the incident that gave rise to this lawsuit; Plaintiffs themselves are far better situated to provide that kind of testimony. In the absence of any such testimony from Dr. Machabanski, the proffered justification for Defendant's proposed testimony concerning Plaintiffs' immigration status appears to have been largely, if not entirely, eliminated. See Fed. R. Evid. 402.

Accordingly, the Court rules that all witnesses and the parties' counsel shall refrain from mentioning Plaintiffs' present or past immigration or citizenship status at trial on the ground that it is irrelevant to any issue in this case. To the extent that Defendant believes that the circumstances of Plaintiffs' lives other than the accident involving the postal truck are relevant to Plaintiffs' mental state, they may explore those circumstances without making reference to Plaintiffs' immigration or citizenship status.

B. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine Regarding Pre-existing Conditions

Plaintiffs have moved [58] to bar Defendant from presenting any evidence, unless supported by competent medical testimony, that any of Plaintiffs' injuries were caused by anything other than being struck by Ms. Hankerson's car. In support of their motion, Plaintiffs cite Illinois case law that stands for the proposition that absent a causal link between a pre-existing condition and an injury at issue, which in most instances must be established through the use of expert testimony, evidence of a pre-existing condition is inadmissible.

In their brief in opposition, and again at the final pre-trial conference, Defendant contended that Plaintiffs' motion regarding pre-existing conditions misunderstood Defendant's position and intentions. As clarified during the final pre-trial conference (Tr. at 7-11), the parties anticipate that the issue of pre-existing conditions will be injected into the case through the testimony of Plaintiff's treating physicians that the inactivity caused by the accident exacerbated the pre-existing conditions (diabetes and hypertension) of one of the Plaintiffs. If that is the extent of testimony concerning pre-existing conditions, Defendant will be permitted to cross-examine the treating physicians on such testimony. See, e.g., Felber v. London, 803 N.E.2d 1103, 1107 (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. 2004); see also Lagestee v. Days Inn Mgmt. Co., 709 N.E.2d 270, 280 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1999). The parties have not identified any other anticipated uses of testimony concerning pre-existing conditions, and the Court notes that Defendant does not have any medical experts on its witness list. Thus, the motion to exclude will be denied without prejudice. Should any issues concerning pre-existing conditions arise during trial other than those identified above, Plaintiffs are free to renew their motion.*fn1

C. Defendant's Motion in Limine to Bar Plaintiffs' Physicians From Testifying as Experts

Defendant seeks to bar Plaintiffs' treating physicians from testifying as expert witnesses [56], arguing that Plaintiffs failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) deprived Defendant of the opportunity to adequately prepare for trial. In response to Defendant's motion, Plaintiffs acknowledge that they did not disclose their treating physicians as experts or provide expert reports as required by Rule 26(a)(2). However, Plaintiffs point out that the sanction of exclusion is not mandatory and ask that the Court consider the lesser sanction of limiting the treating physicians to the opinions expressed in letters that were disclosed to Defendants in an administrative proceeding that predated this court action. In support of their request, ...

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