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Karolina Obrycka v. City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate

September 14, 2012

KAROLINA OBRYCKA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO AND ANTHONY ABBATE, JR., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On April 30, 2007, Plaintiff Karolina Obrycka brought a five-count Complaint alleging that Defendants City of Chicago and former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate, Jr. violated her constitutional rights in relation to an incident on February 19, 2007 at Jesse's Shortstop Inn in Chicago, Illinois and the subsequent investigation into that incident. In Count I, Obrycka alleged that the City violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights based on the City's de facto policy of concealing or suppressing investigations into police officer misconduct, along with a code of silence within the Chicago Police Department. See Monell v. Department of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). In Counts II, III, and IV, Obrycka alleged conspiracy claims against Abbate, the former Defendants to this lawsuit, and other alleged co-conspirators pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983. Count V is an indemnification claim against the City pursuant to 735 ILCS 10/9-102.

On February 23, 2012, the Court granted in part and denied in part the City's motion for partial summary judgment as to Counts I and V of the Complaint. On March 15, 2012, the Court set a firm trial date of October 22, 2012. Before the Court is Defendant's omnibus motion in limine, specifically, parts 4, 6, 10, 14, and 17. For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, grants Defendant's omnibus motion parts 4, 6, 10, 14, and 17.

LEGAL STANDARD

"Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984). In limine rulings avoid delay and allow the parties the opportunity to prepare themselves and witnesses for the introduction or exclusion of the applicable evidence. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999); United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). Trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary issues before and during trial. See Christmas, v. City of Chicago, 682 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir. 2012). Moreover, regardless of the Court's initial ruling on a motion in limine, the Court may alter its discretionary ruling during trial. See Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42; Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust of Chicago, 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006). The Court will only grant a motion in limine when the evidence is clearly inadmissible for any purpose. See Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997); Betts v. City of Chicago, Ill., 784 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1023 (N.D. Ill. 2011).

ANALYSIS

I. City of Chicago Indemnifying Compensatory Damages for Abbate -- Part 4

In part 4 of Defendant's omnibus motion, Defendant seeks to bar evidence or testimony that the City of Chicago may indemnify Defendant Abbate for compensatory damages. In general, courts bar evidence of indemnification because it may encourage juries to inflate compensatory damages awards. See Lawson v. Trowbridge, 153 F.3d 368, 379 (7th Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff agrees that the issue of indemnification is irrelevant. Plaintiff argues, however, that she can raise the issue before the jury if "any party makes an issue of Abbate's ability to pay a judgment." Plaintiff's argument goes too far.

If Defendants open the door by presenting evidence or argument of Abbate's financial condition, however, evidence of indemnification may be permissible. See id.; Christmas v. City of Chicago, 691 F.Supp.2d 811, 819 (N.D. Ill. 2010). As such, if Defendant offers evidence of Abbate's financial condition, Obrycka must front this issue with the Court outside of the presence of the jury. See Kemezy v. Peters, 79 F.3d 33, 37 (7th Cir. 1996) ("defendant should not be allowed to plead poverty if his employer or an insurance company is going to pick up the tab"). The Court therefore grants Defendant's in limine motion in this respect without prejudice.

II. Punish/Send a Message -- Part 6

In part 6 of Defendant's omnibus motion, the City moves to bar Obrycka from arguing that the jury should "send a message" or punish the City with its verdict. Plaintiff unhelpfully responds that the City's request "contradicts reality." The Court grants Defendant's motion because any such statements implicate punitive damages, which Obrycka is not seeking against Defendant Abbate and cannot recover from the City pursuant to 745 ILCS 10/2-102. See Betts v. City of Chicago, 784 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1033 (N.D. Ill. 2011); Christmas v. City of Chicago, 691 F.Supp.2d 811, 820 (N.D. Ill. 2010).

III. Waited Long Time for Day in Court -- Part 10

Next, in part 10, the City maintains that Obrycka should be barred from presenting evidence, argument, or comment about waiting for her day in court because whatever probative value this evidence may have is substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice, especially because this matter was stayed during Defendant Abbate's pending criminal proceedings. See Fed.R.Evid. 403. The Court agrees. It is common practice for federal courts to stay civil actions pending a parties' criminal prosecution. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 394, 127 S.Ct. 1091, 166 L.Ed.2d 973 (2007); see, e.g., Harris v. City of Chicago, 266 F.3d 750, 752 (7th Cir. 2001). Also, Plaintiff fails to recognize that many of the delays in this matter where due her own attorneys' repeated requests for extensions of time. (See, e.g., R. 160, 203, 274, 278, ...


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