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Ames v. Rock Island Boat Club

August 10, 2010

NICOLE AMES, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF NICHOLAS EATON, AND NICOLE AMES, MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF R.R.E.A. A MINOR CHILD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ROCK ISLAND BOAT CLUB, AND TRI-COVE LTD D/B/A TRIANGLE INN, DEFENDANTS.
VICKY ZAHN, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER RECTOR, AND VICKY ZAHN, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRI-COVE, LTD D/B/A TRIANGLE INN, DEFENDANT, AND TRI-COVE, LTD D/B/A TRIANGLE INN, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ROCK ISLAND BOAT CLUB, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.
JOHN S. HEBERT AND ARRON M. SHEE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE ROCK ISLAND BOAT CLUB, AND TRI-COVE LTD D/B/A TRIANGLE INN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge

ORDER & OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' joint Motion in Limine (Doc. 102), Defendant Rock Island Boat Club's Amended Motion in Limine, which Defendant Tri-Cove joins (Doc. 101), and Defendant Tri-Cove's Motion in Limine, which Defendant Rock Island Boat Club joins (Doc. 103). Defendant Rock Island Boat Club also moved to withdraw item #7 from its earlier Motion in Limine. (Doc. 109). This request is denied as moot, as the item related to Plaintiff's Zahn's attorney; Plaintiff Zahn has now settled her claims against both Defendants. (8/9/10 Text Order). As explained further below, the other motions in limine are granted in part and denied in part.

PLAINTIFFS' MOTION IN LIMINE

Plaintiffs ask the Court to order that Defendants, Defendants' counsel, and any witnesses not make any direct or indirect mention of several facts before the jury without having first obtained the permission of the Court outside of the jury's presence:*fn1

1. The settlement of the Plaintiffs' claim with State Farm Insurance, the insurer of the vehicle driven by Matthew Irwin. Defendant Rock Island Boat Club has no objection, and the request therefore is granted.

2. The release of the Rock Island Boat Club from liability to Plaintiff Zahn, which Plaintiffs argue is not relevant. As Plaintiff Zahn's claims have been settled, this request is denied as moot.

3.-7. The notices of the dram shop action to other dram shops, which were sent within six months of the accident and prior to discovery; Plaintiffs argue that these notices are not relevant. Defendant Rock Island Boat Club contends that the notices are relevant, stating that "[t]he evidence of the four dram shop notices makes it more probable that the Plaintiffs do not know where Matthew Irwin was even drinking the night of the incident," and "provide the background evidence and show a chronology of events by the Plaintiffs," in that they "show the Plaintiffs gave dram shop notices to several establishments in an attempt to try and figure out where Matthew Irwin was even drinking on the date of the incident." (Doc. 108 at 4).

Though the standard for relevance under Federal Rule of Evidence 401 is broad, the Court does not find that the fact that Plaintiffs did not know, within siX months of the accident and prior to the initiation of discovery, precisely where Matthew Irwin, who was presumeably a stranger to them, would have been drinking on the night of the accident, to be relevant to any fact at issue in this case. The notices are required as an initial step under Iowa's dram shop law. I.C.A. § 123.93. Yes, they show that Plaintiffs were not initially sure of where Irwin was drinking on the night of April 28 and 29, 2007, but the fact that Plaintiffs needed to investigate where Irwin might have been drinking that night does not make any fact at issue more or less probable - it does not make it more or less likely that Defendants served Irwin alcohol in violation of the dram shop statute, but merely shows that Plaintiffs, who did not know Irwin previously, did not know without investigation and discovery where he drank. Plaintiffs' request is granted.

ROCK ISLAND BOAT CLUB'S AMENDED MOTION IN LIMINE

The Rock Island Boat Club requests that the Court prevent Plaintiffs, Defendants, Plaintiffs' or Defendants' counsel, and Plaintiffs' or Defendants' witnesses from commenting on certain matters:*fn2

1. The existence or nonexistence and payment or nonpayment of insurance for any party, relying on Federal Rule of Evidence 411. Plaintiffs have no objection; this request is granted.

2. With the exception of evidence regarding the release between Plaintiff Zahn and the Rock Island Boat Club, any settlement negotiations, compromises, offers, or demands, under Federal Rule of Evidence 408. Plaintiffs have no objection; this request is granted insofar as it excludes evidence of any settlement negotiations, compromises, offers, or demands. Insofar as it seeks to admit evidence of Plaintiff's Zahn's release of liability with the Rock Island Boat Club, the request is denied as moot.

3. The financial status of any party or the relative wealth of the parties, under Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 402 and Adams Labs, Inc. v. Jacobs Eng'g Co., Inc., 761 F.2d 1218, 1226 (7th Cir. 1985). Plaintiffs have no objection; this request is granted.

4. Statutes, rules, or regulations, unless the Court specifically rules on their admissibility and applicability. The Rock Island Boat Club does not specify what statutes, rules, or regulations it refers to, and does not cite any authority for preventing reference to any statutes, rules, or regulations. As pointed out by Plaintiff, the Iowa dram shop act is the basis of this case, and the jury must be instructed as to its requirements; there is no reason the Court can discern to prevent the parties' referring to the dram shop act. In addition, within the parties' "Stipulation of Uncontested Facts," the parties have already stipulated to Matthew Irwin's convictions for vehicular homicide and for serious injury by vehicle under Iowa ...


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