United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Z.H. by and through KEVIN HUTCHENS and CHRISTIN HUTCHENS, individually, and as parents and next friends of Z.H. Plaintiffs,
ABBOTT LABORATORIES, INC. and ABBVIE, INC. Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion in
Limine to Exclude Evidence, Testimony and Argument about
Codes of Business Conduct, Ethical Guidelines, or Similar
Documents Promulgated by Abbott, the FDA, PhRMA, or any Other
Entity and Not if Effect Prior to the Minor Plaintiff's
Conception. (ECF # 116). For the following reasons, the Court
grants Defendants' Motion.
in Limine are generally used to ensure evenhanded and
expeditious management of trials by eliminating evidence that
is clearly inadmissible for any purpose.” Indiana
Insurance Co. v. General Electric Co., 326 F.Supp.2d
844, 846 (N.D.Ohio 2004) (citing Jonasson v. Lutheran
Child and Family Serv., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th
Cir.1997)). A “motion in limine, if
granted, is a tentative, interlocutory, precautionary ruling
by the trial court reflecting its anticipatory treatment of
the evidentiary issue . . . the trial court is certainly at
liberty ‘* * * to consider the admissibility of the
disputed evidence in its actual context.'”
State v. Grubb, 28 Ohio St.3d 199, 201-202 (1986)
(citing State v. White, 6 Ohio App.3d 1, 4 (1982)).
“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.”
Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984).
Sixth Circuit has instructed that the “better
practice” is to address questions regarding the
admissibility of broad categories of evidence “as they
arise.” Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Co., 519 R.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975). “[A] court
is almost always better situated during the actual trial to
assess the value and utility of evidence.”
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Ass'n v. Comerica
Bank, No. 05-CV-0056, 2011 WL 4625359, at *1 (S.D.Ohio
Oct.3, 2011). It is noteworthy that denial of a motion in
limine does not necessarily mean that the evidence, which is
the subject of the motion, will be admissible at trial.
Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844,
846 (N.D.Ohio 2004).
401 defines relevant evidence as evidence tending 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. Moreover, Fed.R.Evid.
402 provides that evidence that “is not relevant is not
depositions, Defendants allege their company witnesses were
questioned by Plaintiffs' counsel regarding codes of
business conduct, guidelines, standards and similar documents
promulgated by Defendants, the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America (“PhRMA”) and others
that were not in effect prior to Z.H.'s conception.
Defendants move the Court to exclude any such testimony or
evidence as irrelevant to whether Defendants met their legal
obligations to adequately warn physicians of the birth defect
risks of Depakote in women of child bearing age. These
ethical guidelines and codes do not tend to prove or disprove
the adequacy of Defendants' warning prior to Z.H.'s
conception. Furthermore, Defendants argue they would tend to
mislead the jury because the jury may substitute these later
adopted guidelines or codes for the legal standards in the
case. Defendants cite to Judge O'Malley's decision in
In re Welding Fume Prod. Liab. Litig. No.
1:03CV17000, 2005 WL 1868046, at *20 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 8, 2005)
wherein the court held, “But the critical question for
the jury in this case is whether the defendant corporations
did what the law required them to do, not whether, for a
societal perspective, they did what an ethical corporation
should have done ..... opinions regarding the lateer,
accordingly, will tend to misdirect the finder of
opposition is based on their argument that while the codes
and guidelines may not have been formally adopted prior to
Z.H.'s conception, they did govern Defendants'
operations for decades. Whether Defendants breached their own
guidelines is relevant to the alleged breach of their legal
duties in this case. They are also relevant to what the
industry standards were at the time and have a tendency to
make the facts of this case more or less probable. The
testimony comes for Defendants' own employees and is
therefore, not improper lay testimony. Finally, Plaintiffs
argue Defendants motion is too vague and overbroad.
Court finds that evidence or testimony regarding any ethical
standards, guidelines or similar codes of conduct that were
not in effect prior to Z.H.'s conception are irrelevant
to the causes of action in this case and are excluded.
Furthermore, the Court agrees with Defendants that the
introduction of such standards ...