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Hinkle v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

February 12, 2007

JOSEPH TODD HINKLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King

OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's Preliminary Motions in Limine (Doc. # 59) and Defendant's response (Doc. # 63). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds the motion well taken only in part.

I. Plaintiff's Violation of Court Order

As a threshold matter, this Court must address Plaintiff's untimely filing of the motion sub judice. The undersigned judicial officer has a standing order, available from the Clerk and posted on the Court's website, that provides that "[m]otions in limine . . . shall be filed three weeks prior to the final pretrial conference." Trial Procedure for Civil Jury Trial, at 6. The Court held the final pretrial conference in this case on January 9, 2007, but Plaintiff did not file his motion in limine until January 30, 2007. (Doc. # 59.) Plaintiff's multi-pronged motion in limine is therefore well outside the filing deadline. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to obtain leave of Court prior to filing the motion.

Although asserting some prejudice consequent to the untimely filing, Defendant does not move to strike the motion in limine. Rather, Defendant asks in its response that "the Court address the late filing . . . in the manner which the Court deems reasonable and appropriate." (Doc. # 63, at 1.)

The Court is not pleased with Plaintiff's actions. In the interest of resolving the numerous issues presented by the motion in limine prior to trial, however, and in light of the fact that Defendant has been able to file a response to the motion, the Court does not strike the motion in limine or impose the sanctions on Plaintiff's counsel that it was considering. The Court instead simply admonishes Plaintiff's counsel for his abject failure to comply with all applicable orders of this Court and advises counsel to meet his responsibilities in the future.

II. Motion in Limine

A. Standard Involved

The Court has previously noted that the inquiry involved in and nature of a motion in limine decision are well settled:

Motions in limine are generally used to ensure evenhanded and expeditious management of trials by eliminating evidence that is clearly inadmissible for any purpose. See Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family Serv., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir.1997). The court has the power to exclude evidence in limine only when evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Cf. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 463 n.4, 83 L.Ed. 2d 443 (1984) (federal district courts have authority to make in limine rulings pursuant to their authority to manage trials). Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context. (citations omitted). Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded. The court will entertain objections on individual proffers as they arise at trial, even though the proffer falls within the scope of a denied motion in limine. See United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir.1989) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41, 105 S.Ct. at 463) ("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."). Hawthorne Partners v. AT & T Technologies, Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400-01 (N.D. Ill.1993).

Indiana Ins. Co. v. General Elec. Co., 326 F. Supp.2d 844, 846-47 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Cognizant of this standard, the Court shall address each of Plaintiff's sixteen categories in his combined motion in limine.

B. Discussion

1. Defendant's "Work Product"

In the first aspect of his motion in limine, Plaintiff seeks to preclude Defendant's use at trial of undisclosed evidence protected during discovery by the attorney work product privilege. Arguing that Plaintiff misconstrues the privilege, Defendant opposes the motion while at the same time stating that it is "not currently aware of any particular evidence which would be affected by this motion." (Doc. # 63, at 3.) Because this aspect of Plaintiff's motion does not appear to be applicable to the facts of this litigation, the Court denies this portion of the motion as moot.

2. Discipline

Plaintiff moves this Court to exclude evidence of any discipline assessed by Defendant against him. In response, Defendant asserts that it does not know how the request applies to this case, but does not oppose this aspect of the motion. Because this aspect of Plaintiff's motion also does not appear to be applicable to ...


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