United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JOSE ANDRES CAZARES, as Special Administrator of the Estate of ANDREW CAZARES, deceased and FAUSTO T. MANZERA, as Special Administrator of the Estate of FAUSTO A. MANZERA, et al., Plaintiffs,
JOSEPH FRUGOLI, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA M. KENDALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
detailed in several of this Court's prior rulings, Andrew
Cazares and Fausto A. Manzera died after their disabled
vehicle was struck by an SUV driven by Joseph Frugoli, an
intoxicated off-duty Chicago police officer. Plaintiffs Jose
Cazares and Fausto T. Manzera as special administrators of
the estates of Andrew Cazares and Fausto A. Manzera, brought
suit against Frugoli and his employer, the City of Chicago,
alleging wrongful death against Frugoli and a Monell
claim against the City of Chicago. In anticipation of trial,
which is set for October 30, 2017, the parties have filed a
number of motions in limine, many of which the Court
has already ruled upon. (See Dkt. 386.) The
remaining thirteen motions in limine are addressed below.
courts necessarily possess the broad discretion to rule on
evidentiary issues before and during trial. See Dietz v.
Bouldin, 136 S.Ct. 1885, 1891 (2016). The Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure do not explicitly address motions in
limine, but that power is inherently vested in district
courts in order to ensure just, speedy, and inexpensive
dispute resolutions. Id.; see also Luce v.
United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984)
(“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.”).
“Motions in limine are well-established
devices that streamline trials and settle evidentiary
disputes in advance, so that trials are not interrupted
mid-course for the consideration of lengthy and complex
evidentiary issues.” U.S. v. Tokash, 282 F.3d
962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Jonasson v. Lutheran
Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir.
1997) (“[The] motion in limine is an important tool
available to the trial judge to ensure the expeditious and
evenhanded management of the trial proceedings . . . . [It]
permits the trial judge to eliminate from further
consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not
be presented to the jury because they clearly would be
inadmissible for any purpose.”). “Trial courts
issue rulings on motions in limine to guide the parties on
what evidence it will admit later in trial.” Perry
v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013).
During a trial, the presiding judge “is free, in the
exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in
limine ruling.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42;
see also Ohler v. U.S., 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000)
(“[I]n limine rulings are not binding on the trial
judge, and the judge may always change his mind during the
course of a trial.”).
courts have broad discretion to determine the admissibility
of evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence. United
States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45, 54 (1984) (“Assessing
the probative value of [the proffered evidence], and weighing
any factors counseling against admissibility is a matter
first for the district court's sound judgment under Rules
401 and 403 . . . .”); McLane Co., Inc. v.
E.E.O.C., 137 S.Ct. 1159, 1168 (2017) (“District
courts decide . . . whether evidence is relevant at
trial.”); United States v. Rogers, 587 F.3d
816, 823 (7th Cir. 2009) (“Rule 403 remains an
important safeguard against the admission of prejudicial
evidence, and courts enjoy wide discretion in applying the
rule.”). Under Rule 401, evidence does not need to
conclusively prove the ultimate fact in issue, but only have
“any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is
of consequence to the determination of the action more
probable or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.” Fed. Rule Evid. 401; see New Jersey v.
T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 345 (1985). Rule 403
limits this otherwise broad language favoring relevance,
which permits courts to exclude relevant evidence “if
its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger
of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing
the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time,
or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.”
Fed.R.Evid. 403; see United States v. Lynn, 851 F.3d
786 (7th Cir. 2017). Rule 403 analyses require
fact-intensive, context-specific inquiries and an
“on-the-spot balancing of probative value and
prejudice, potentially to exclude as unduly prejudicial some
evidence that already has been found to be factually
relevant.” Sprint/United Management Co. v.
Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384, 88 (2008) (citing 1 S.
Childress & M. Davis, Federal Standards of Review §
4.02, p. 4-16 (3d ed.1999)).
Plaintiffs' Motions in Limine
Motion in Limine #2 - to bar testimony or reference to
alcohol use by Andrew Cazares or Fausto Manzera. (Dkt.
seek to exclude evidence that at the time of their deaths,
Manzera and Cazares were under the influence of alcohol.
(Dkt. 368.) Plaintiffs submit that such evidence is
irrelevant because at the time of the crash, the decedents
had no control over their vehicle and to the extent it is
relevant, its probity is outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice, confusion, and the potential to mislead the jury.
(Id. at 2.)
their car suffered a total electrical failure, Cazares and
Manzera sat in their vehicle, which was stuck on the right
side of one of the expressway's entrance ramps, for
approximately twenty minutes. During that time, the decedents
made several phone calls to friends but failed to notify the
police or other authorities of their predicament. The
decedents' inaction following their vehicle's
electrical failure is relevant to the Defendants'
contributory negligence defense. Specifically, as
Defendants' expert is prepared to testify, it is possible
that the decedents' intoxication resulted in their
underappreciation of the danger they were in at the time of
the collision and that their use of alcohol resulted in their
failure to call for assistance from the police or another
authority. Jarrett v. United States, the only case
applying the Federal Rules of Evidence cited by Plaintiffs in
their motion in limine, undercuts their position. In
Jarrett, the Seventh Circuit found that newly
discovered evidence regarding the occasional drug usage of
one of the government's witnesses did not warrant a new
trial because such evidence did not undermine the
witness's memory and evidence of substance use could not
be used to attack one's credibility. Jarrett v.
United States, 822 F.2d 1438, 1446 (7th Cir. 1987).
Instead, the court noted that such evidence was admissible
only to attack the individual's perception of the
underlying events. Id. Here, Defendants intend to
present evidence of the decedents' alcohol use at the
time of the accident not to undermine their credibility
(their credibility is not at issue) but instead to challenge
their perception of the danger they were in and their
response to their predicament. Such use of evidence regarding
substance use is exactly the type contemplated by
Jarrett and other similar cases. See also United
States v. Spano, 421 F.3d 599, 606 (7th Cir. 2005);
Casares v. Bernal, 790 F.Supp.2d 769, 786 (N.D. Ill.
2011) (admitting evidence of plaintiff's substance use at
time of incident because, inter alia, there was
evidence that drugs and alcohol prevented him from
understanding the events at the time they occurred).
Plaintiffs' reliance on an Illinois state court decision
is misguided and their understanding of Illinois law on the
issue is misplaced. See Petraski v. Thedos, 382
Ill.App.3d 22, 27, 887 N.E.2d 24, 30 (2008) (reversing jury
verdict in favor of plaintiff when trial court excluded
evidence of plaintiff's alcohol use at time of vehicular
accident, because evidence of plaintiff's intoxication
was relevant to determining contributory negligence).
Defendants may use evidence of the decedents' alcohol use
to challenge their response to their vehicle's failure,
the Court is unaware of any evidence to support the inference
that Cazares' use of alcohol contributed to his car
becoming disabled. Regardless, defense counsel represented
that they would not attempt to make that argument during
trial. The Court therefore denies Plaintiffs' Motion in
Limine # 2 as set forth above.
Motion in Limine #3 - to bar testimony or reference to
contributory negligence by plaintiffs. (Dkt. 329.)
referencing any of the Federal Rules of Evidence, Plaintiffs
seek to completely bar Defendants from arguing that the
decedents were contributorily negligent. As noted above,
evidence of the decedents' alcohol consumption is
relevant and admissible, in a limited form, to demonstrate
that the decedents were contributorily negligent. To the
extent the evidence at trial otherwise supports the inference
that the decedents were contributorily negligent, Defendants
are permitted to make that argument. See Levitt v. H. J.
Jeffries, Inc., 517 F.2d 523, 525 (7th Cir. 1975)
(reversing district court's decision to exclude evidence
related to contributory negligence in diversity suit
involving vehicular accident); see also Payne v.
Schneider Nat'l Carriers, Inc., No. CV 09-559-GPM,
2011 WL 13098430, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2011)
(“[e]vidence of Mr. Payne's contributory
negligence, if any, is not inadmissible as evidence under the
demanding standard for exclusion of evidence in limine, as
such evidence plainly goes to the matter of comparative
fault.”). For these reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion in
Limine # 3 is denied.
Motion in Limine # 5 - to bar the City from arguing that a
code of silence does not exist with the CPD. (Dkt.
relying on public statements from the current mayor of
Chicago and similar statements from several Chicago Police
Department (“CPD”) officials, Plaintiffs have
moved to prevent the City of Chicago from arguing that a code
of silence does not exist within the Chicago Police
statements by Mayor Emanuel or Chicago police officials as to
a general code of silence does not have a preclusive effect
on the code of silence at issue here. It is expected that one
of the City of Chicago's primary defenses is that there
was no code of silence at issue here or that it did not cause
the collision at issue. Defendants are entitled to present
that defense and there is no justification for precluding
Defendants from arguing that a code of silence does not
exist, especially based on public comments from public
officials who were not specifically addressing the facts of
in order to prevail at trial Plaintiffs must do more than
merely establish the existence of a generalized code of
silence within the CPD. As detailed in the Court's
summary judgment ruling, to succeed on their Monell
claim, Plaintiffs must demonstrate the existence of a code of
silence that protects officers who are involved in
alcohol-related incidents and must demonstrate that that
specific code of silence caused the decedents'
constitutional deprivation. That being said, the Court will
not preclude Plaintiffs from presenting evidence or argument
regarding a general code of silence. Such evidence may be
helpful background to establishing the specific code of
silence at issue here, as Plaintiffs must demonstrate a
widespread custom, practice, or policy. The cases cited by
Defendants in support of their request to exclude references
to a general code of silence are all factually
distinguishable, since unlike here, none of them involved a
Monell claim where an alleged code of silence was
front and center. See Jones v. City of
Chicago, No. 14 C 4023, 2017 WL 413613, at *3 (N.D. Ill.
Jan. 31, 2017) (excluding evidence of generalized code of
silence but permitting evidence of officers covering up
wrongful behavior in relation to plaintiff's conspiracy
claims where there was not a Monell claim against
the City alleging that a code of silence caused
constitutional deprivation); Lopez v. Vidljinovic,
No. 12 C 5751, 2016 WL 4429637, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 22,
2016) (excluding evidence of Mayor Emanuel's statements
concerning a code of silence within the CPD when evaluating
summary judgment, where plaintiff was attempting to show City
failed to properly train its employees on use of force);
Hill v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 6772, 2011 WL
3205304, at *5 (N.D. Ill. July 28, 2011) (excluding evidence
of a general code of silence in case involving claims for a
coerced conviction, a § 1983 conspiracy claim, and a
failure to intervene claim, but not a Monell claim
predicated on a code of silence); Christmas v. City of
Chicago, 691 F.Supp.2d 811, 819 (N.D. Ill. 2010)
(permitting evidence that the officers involved adhered to a
code of silence regarding the plaintiff's constitutional
rights but excluding evidence of a generalized code of
silence in case involving a Monell claim where the
City was accused of failing to implement training or a
mechanism for oversight and/or of police officer misconduct);
cf. Obrycka v. City of Chicago, No. 07 C 2372, 2012
WL 601810, at *7-*8 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2012) (permitting
“code of silence” evidence presented by same
experts in support of Monell claim predicated on
code of silence). Furthermore, the Court has deemed
admissible the testimony of Lou Reiter, one of
Plaintiffs' experts who intends to testify about the
existence of a code of silence within the CPD.
Motion in Limine # 7 - to bar testimony of or reference to,
by argument or otherwise, regarding decedents' prior
police contact and ...