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Coleman v. Cook County

October 20, 2010

CATHRYN COLEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court are six motions in limine filed by defendant Cook County ("Cook County").*fn1

[Dkt 77-82.] Plaintiff, Cathryn Coleman ("Coleman"), filed responses to each of the motions, including the one which she does not contest. [Dkt 86-91.] Oral argument was heard on the motions on September 16, 2010 and October 5, 2010. The motions are ruled upon as follows.

BACKGROUND

The following brief summary of the facts is taken from the parties' Draft Final Pretrial Order. [Dkt 84.] Coleman worked for Cook County as an administrative clerk from May 21, 1990 until October 18, 2007. She alleges that Cook County failed to accommodate her disability when it refused to allow her to return to work after certain leaves of absence and that it forced her to take disability leaves at various times from July 2004 through October 2007. She also claims that in response to her discrimination complaints Cook County retaliated against her by refusing to allow her to return to work after various leaves and for constructively discharging her in October 2007. Cook County denies each of Coleman's claims. Trial is set to begin in this matter on November 15, 2010.

DISCUSSION

Generally, "[m]otions in limine are disfavored." Mi-Jack Products v. International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, No. 94 C 6676, 1995 WL 680214 at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 1995) (Conlon, J.) "Evidence should not be excluded in limine unless it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." Id. Rather, rulings on evidence "ordinarily should be deferred until trial," when they may be resolved in the proper context. Id. The movant bears the burden of showing that the evidence that it seeks to preclude is "clearly inadmissible." Plair v. E.J. Branch & Sons, Inc., 864 F. Supp. 67, 69 (N.D. Ill. 1994). Denial of a motion in limine is not a ruling that the material subject to the motion is necessarily admissible. Rather, it means only that "outside the context of trial, the court cannot determine whether the evidence in question is admissible." Id. at 69.

A. Motions in Limine Nos. 1 and 4

Cook County's Motion in Limine No. 1 seeks to bar plaintiff from seeking any category of speculative damages other than lost income; specifically, it seeks to bar $60,000 that Coleman claimed as damages based on her early withdrawal from pension and life insurance policies. [Dkt 77.] Motion in Limine No. 4 seeks to bar Coleman from presenting any evidence of special damages; specifically, $20,000 in claimed medical expenses. [Dkt 80.] Both motions are premised on Cook County's challenge to the adequacy of Coleman's disclosures during discovery. After initially opposing the motions (Pl.'s Resp. Mot. in Limine No. 1, Pl.'s Resp. Mot. in Limine No. 4) [dkt 86, 89], Coleman has withdrawn both claimed damage amounts, as stated during the October 5, 2010 continued hearing on the motions.

Because Coleman has withdrawn her claims for special damages and medical expenses, Cook County's Motion in Limine Nos. 1 and 4 are denied as moot.

B. Motion in Limine No. 2

Cook County's Motion in Limine No. 2 seeks to exclude non-party witnesses from the courtroom prior to testifying and an order instructing witnesses "not to discuss any aspects of the case among themselves or with others during the course of the trial." (Def.'s Mot. in Limine No. 2 at 1.) [Dkt 78.] Coleman does not oppose the motion. (Pl.'s Resp. Mot. in Limine No. 2.) [Dkt 87.]

Federal Rule of Evidence 615 provides that upon a party's motion or sua sponte the court may exclude witnesses from the trial so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses. Fed. R. Evid. 615. All witnesses other than the party representatives shall be excluded from the courtroom during opening statements as well as during the testimony of any and all other witnesses. If a witness concludes his or her direct testimony and remains to observe some other part of the trial, that witness may be precluded from testifying in rebuttal. See U.S. v. Tedder, 403 F.3d 836, 840 (7th Cir. 2005) ("If [defendant] wanted this witness available for rebuttal, he should have kept him out of the courtroom.") Counsel for the parties must police their witnesses' compliance with this order.

Cook County's additional request that witnesses be instructed not to discuss the case during its pendency also is unopposed, and is granted. Counsel shall instruct their witnesses that, although they may discuss trial scheduling matters or other issues with counsel, they may not discuss among ...


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