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Marcellino v. Federal Express Corp.

October 20, 2010

SHARON M. MARCELLINO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff Sharon M. Marcellino's motions in limine and on Defendant Federal Express Corporation's (FedEx) motions in limine. For the reasons stated below, we grant in part and deny in part the motions in limine.

DISCUSSION

I. Marcellino's Motions In Limine

Marcellino has filed eight motions in limine.

A. Marcellino's Motion in Limine Number 1

Marcellino requests in motion in limine number 1 that the court bar the declarations of Marianne Mock, Richard McMahon, and Mary Meissner. Marcellino contends that such declarations are hearsay. FedEx acknowledges that the declarations, if offered for the truth of the statements contained therein, would be hearsay. (Ans. M1 1-2). FedEx argues, however, that it is improper to bar the declarations in the abstract before the start of the trial since they may become admissible for other purposes at trial, such as to show a prior inconsistent statement. We agree that Marcellino has failed to show that the declarations should be barred prior to trial for all purposes and we deny Marcellino's motion in limine number 1.

B. Marcellino's Motion in Limine Number 2

Marcellino requests in motion in limine number 2 that the court bar evidence of Marcellino's at-will employee status. Marcellino states that she is concerned that the average juror, when hearing that Marcellino was an at-will employee, will believe that Marcellino had no rights in regard to her employment. Marcellino contends that such evidence is irrelevant and overly prejudicial. FedEx contends that Marcellino's at-will employee status is relevant to their defense. We agree that Marcellino's status would be relevant in this action, which is premised on the ultimate termination of Marcellino's employment. Marcellino's at-will employment status shows that FedEx had the right to terminate Marcellino's employment for any reason, as long as it was not an unlawful reason, such as discrimination based on a disability. See, e.g., Darchak v. City of Chicago Bd. of Educ., 580 F.3d 622, 628 (7th Cir. 2009)(defining an at-will employee as "one whose employment has a nonspecific duration that can be terminated for any reason"); Mattenson v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 438 F.3d 763, 767 (7th Cir. 2006)(stating that the plaintiff "was an employee at will who could be fired for any reason not forbidden by the age discrimination law"). FedEx can introduce evidence of Marcellino's at-will employment status. The jurors will be properly instructed as to the law and will be instructed that if jurors find that FedEx unlawfully discriminated against Marcellino because of her disability, then FedEx would have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq.. Marcellino has not provided any concrete basis to conclude that jurors that are thus instructed will presume that Marcellino had no rights because of her at-will employee status. Therefore, we deny Marcellino's motion in limine number 2.

C. Marcellino's Motion in Limine Number 3

Marcellino requests in motion in limine number 3 that the court bar any references at trial to settlement negotiations between the parties. FedEx indicates that there has not been any meaningful settlement negotiations between the parties and that it is unclear what Marcellino is referring to in this motion. FedEx also contends that, although it does not intend to offer evidence of settlement negotiations for any improper purpose, it is premature to assess whether such evidence would be admissible at trial. Federal Rule of Evidence 408 (Rule 408) provides that references to settlement negotiations are generally not admissible. Fed. R. Evid. 408(a). Rule 408, however, also provides that such evidence may be admissible in certain instances, such as to prove a witness' bias or prejudice. Fed. R. Evid. 408(b). We agree that generally references to settlement negotiations would be inadmissible, however, we cannot, in the abstract, assess whether evidence of settlement negotiations between the parties would be inadmissible for all purposes and, thus, it is premature to exclude such evidence at this juncture. Therefore, we deny Marcellino's motion in limine number 3. We caution FedEx that if it intends to introduce such evidence during the trial, FedEx should first address it with the court.

D. Marcellino's Motion in Limine Number 4

Marcellino requests in motion in limine number 4 that the court bar references to the timing of the filing of her charge of discrimination. Marcellino contends that it is irrelevant that she filed her charge of discrimination five months after her termination since its was filed in a timely fashion under the law. Marcellino also contends that such references would be overly prejudicial. However, as FedEx correctly points out, the timing of the filing of the charge of discrimination is relevant for determining which alleged discriminatory acts fall within the 300-day limitations period for an ADA claim. See, e.g., Stepney v. Naperville School Dist. 203, 392 F.3d 236, 239 (7th Cir. 2004). Thus, the timing of the filing of the charge of discrimination is relevant in this action, and FedEx may raise such facts if it is necessary to make clear to the jury that certain acts outside the limitations period cannot be the basis of the claims in this action. Marcellino has not shown how the timing of the filing of the charge of discrimination would be overly prejudicial. However, Marcellino is correct that it would be irrelevant and overly prejudicial for FedEx to point out that the filing of the charge of discrimination was five months after Marcellino's termination and to insinuate, based on her failure to immediately file a charge of discrimination, that she was not diligent or was not actually subjected to discrimination. Therefore, we grant in part and deny in part Marcellino's motion in ...


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