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Leger v. Spiller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 9, 2017

WILLIAM P. LEGER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS A. SPILLER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are the motions in limine filed by Plaintiff (Doc. 89), Defendant Karen Jamiet[1] (Doc. 85) and Defendant Vipin Shah (Doc. 87). The Court heard argument from the parties and made the rulings below on the record during the final pretrial conference on November 8, 2017.

         The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule on the relevance and admissibility of evidence before it is offered at trial. See 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”). It serves to “aid the trial process by enabling the court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.” Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2nd Cir. 1996).

         Motions in limine also may save the parties time, effort, and cost in preparing and presenting their cases. Pivot Point Intern., Inc. v. Charlene Products, Inc., 932 F.Supp. 220, 222 (N.D. Ill. 1996). Often, however, the better practice is to wait until trial to rule on objections, particularly when admissibility substantially depends upon facts which may be developed there. Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family Services, 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997).

         The movant has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any relevant ground, “for any purpose.” Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 864 F.Supp. 67, 69 (N.D. Ill. 1994). The court may deny a motion in limine when it “lacks the necessary specificity with respect to the evidence to be excluded.” Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh v. L.E. Myers Co. Group, 937 F.Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Moreover, the court may alter an in limine ruling based on developments at trial or sound judicial discretion. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. “Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp.1398, 1401 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Denial only means that the court cannot decide admissibility outside the context of trial. Plair, 864 F.Supp. at 69.

         A court may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion in limine is placed “in an appropriate factual context.” Nat'l Union, 937 F.Supp. at 287. Stated another way, motion in limine rulings are “subject to change when the case unfolds” at trial. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. Indeed, “even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.” Id. The Court should exclude evidence on a motion in limine “only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.

         With these principles in mind, the Court rules as follows.

         Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine:

• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 1 - Plaintiff seeks to bar any reference to the existence or filing of this motion, or to the fact that Plaintiff has sought to exclude evidence, or to any ruling on the motion by the Court. Defendants do not object to this motion. The motion is accordingly GRANTED.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 2-Plaintiff moves to bar any speculation or argument about the substance of the testimony of any witness who is absent or unavailable, or whom Plaintiff did not call to testify. The motion is GRANTED as to any argument inviting the jury to draw an adverse inference from the absence of any particular witness testimony or exhibit unless it is demonstrated that that exhibit or witness was not equally available to the party making that argument.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 3-Plaintiff moves to bar any argument in closing statement that Plaintiff has asked for a greater amount of money than Plaintiff actually expects to be awarded. Defendants do not object to this motion. The motion is accordingly GRANTED.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 4-Plaintiff moves to bar any reference, introduction of evidence or eliciting responses or arguments in closing statement that Plaintiff's damages should be low or nominal because of his life sentence or incarceration with the Illinois Department of Corrections. While arguments to rebut Plaintiff's assertions that he has been damaged due to an inability to engage in specific activities may be permissible, the motion is GRANTED as to any argument or assertion that his damages are limited specifically because of his life sentence.
• Plaintiff's Motion in limine No. 5-Plaintiff moves to bar any reference, introduction of evidence, or eliciting responses regarding Plaintiff's conviction or the crime that caused him to be an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Evidence of the fact that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony is probative as to his credibility as a witness under FRE 609 and is therefore admissible for that purpose. However, the Court finds that details as to the crime(s) for which Plaintiff was convicted and the length of his sentence are more prejudicial than probative and are thus excludable under FRE 403. The motion is therefore DENIED as to evidence or reference to the fact that Plaintiff has been convicted of a felony.

         Defendant Jaimet's ...


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