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Fermazin v. Menard Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

RICK FERMAZIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MENARD, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER I. BACKGROUND

          Jeffrey T. Gilbert Magistrate Judge.

         This is a personal injury case. Plaintiff Rick Fermazin ("Plaintiff) alleges that, when he was shopping at a store owned by Defendant Menard, Inc. ("Defendant"), his foot became trapped in an empty pallet, causing severe leg and ankle injuries. Complaint, [ECF No. 1-1, ¶ 7, at p. 1]. According to Plaintiff, he could not see the empty pallet as he rounded a corner in the store because it was placed on the floor behind another pallet that was stacked with boxes. Id. ¶¶ 5-7, at p. 1. Plaintiff asserts two counts against Defendant, one for negligence and the other for a violation of the Illinois Premises Liability Act.

         This matter is set for trial on May 8, 2017. Minute Entry Dated 1/31/17, [ECF No. 29]. To prepare for trial, the Court ordered the parties to file motions in limine on or before March 8, 2017. Id. The Court allotted one week for the parties to file response briefs and another week for reply briefs. Id. Both parties filed motions in limine. Plaintiffs Motions in Limine 1-15 to Exclude Various Evidence and Arguments ("Plaintiffs Motions"), [ECF No. 31]; Defendant's Motions in Limine ("Defendant's Motions"), [ECF No. 32]. Defendant filed a response to Plaintiffs motions. Defendant's Response to Plaintiffs Motions in Limine ("Defendant's Response"), [ECF No. 33]. Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's motions, and neither party filed a reply.

         For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs Motions in Limine [ECF No. 31] are granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant's Motions in Limine [ECF No. 32] are granted in part and denied in part.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The district court has the inherent authority to manage the course of a trial. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). The court may exercise this power by issuing an evidentiary ruling in advance of trial. Id. A party may seek such a ruling by filing a motion in limine, which requests the court's guidance on what evidence will (or will not) be admitted at trial. Perry v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013). Prudent motions in limine serve a gatekeeping function by allowing the judge "to eliminate from further consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not be presented to the jury." Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997). By defining the evidentiary boundaries, motions in limine both permit "the parties to focus their preparation on those matters that will be considered by the jury, " id., and help ensure "that trials are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of lengthy and complex evidentiary issues." United States v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002).

         As with all evidentiary matters, the court has broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. United States v. Ajayi, 2015 WL 8538025, at *5 (7th Cir. Dec. 11, 2015); Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). Moreover, the court can change its ruling at trial, "even if nothing unexpected happens." Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. Rulings in limine are speculative in effect; essentially, they are advisory opinions. Wilson, 182 F.3d 562, 570 (7th Cir. 1999) (Coffey, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

         The court will grant a motion in limine to bar evidence only where that evidence is clearly inadmissible for any purpose. Taylor v. Union Pac. R. Co., 2010 WL 5421298, at *1 (S.D. Ill.Dec. 27, 2010). This is a high standard. Thomas v. Sheahan, 514 F.Supp.2d 1083, 1087 (N.D. Ill. 2007). The moving party bears the burden of establishing clear inadmissibility. Euroholdings Capital & Inv. Corp. v. Harris Trust & Sav. Bank, 602 F.Supp.2d 928, 934 (N.D. Ill. 2009). If the moving party cannot satisfy her burden, the evidentiary ruling should be deferred until trial. Green v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires N. Am., Ltd., 2010 WL 747501, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 2, 2010). That is because, at trial, the court will have the benefit of understanding "the context, foundation, and relevance of the contested evidence within the framework of the trial as a whole." Casares v. Bernal, 790 F.Supp.2d 769, 775 (N.D. Ill. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiffs Motions in Limine

         1. Motion No. 1

         Plaintiffs first motion in limine seeks to bar reference to the proposition that Plaintiff must prove a specific dollar amount of damages. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 1], Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 1 is granted.

         2. Motion No. 2

         Plaintiffs second motion in limine seeks to bar comment about or reference to settlement negotiations. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 2]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 2 is granted.

         3. Motion No. 3

         Plaintiffs third motion in limine seeks to bar reference to or argument about Plaintiffs failure to mitigate damages. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 2]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 3 is granted.

         4. Motion No. 4

         Plaintiffs fourth motion in limine seeks to bar reference to the effect that this case, or cases like it, will have on insurance premiums. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 2-3]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 4 is granted.

         5. Motion No. 5

         Plaintiffs fifth motion in limine seeks to bar evidence of tax free investments, Plaintiffs ability to live on accrued interest, and Plaintiffs ability to invest any award that he receives in this case. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 3]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1], Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 5 is granted.

         6. Motion No. 6

         Plaintiffs sixth motion in limine seeks to bar evidence of collateral source benefits. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 3-4]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 6 is granted.

         7. Motion No. 7

         Plaintiffs seventh motion in limine seeks to bar evidence and argument that any award received by Plaintiff in this case would not be subject to federal income tax. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 4]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at 1]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 7 is granted.

         8. Motion No. 8

         Plaintiffs eighth motion in limine seeks to bar argument that Plaintiff has asked for a larger award than he expects to receive. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 4-5]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 atl]. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 8 is granted.

         9. Motion No. 9

         Plaintiffs ninth motion in limine seeks to bar reference to tort reform. Plaintiffs Motions, [ECF No. 31 at 5]. Defendant does not object to this motion. Defendant's Response, [ECF No. 33 at ...


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