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Burrows v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 28, 2019




         Before the Court are Defendant's Motions in Limine [Doc. No. 28]. Defendant's motions (filed as a single document) are at issue. See Resp., Doc. No. 34; Reply, Doc. No. 43.

         I. Introduction and background

         On December 16, 2016, Plaintiff visited Defendant's Stillwater retail location. Plaintiff alleges that he slipped and injured himself because of an unmarked, clear liquid in the men's restroom-which Plaintiff contends had been mopped recently. Plaintiff asserts a single claim for premises liability/negligence against Defendant. See Pet., Doc. No. 1-2. To prevail on a premises liability claim, Plaintiff must prove “(1) existence of a duty on the part of the defendant to protect a plaintiff from injury; (2) defendant's breach of the duty; and (3) injury to plaintiff proximately resulting therefrom.” Scott v. Archon Grp., L.P., 2008 OK 45, ¶ 17, 191 P.3d 1207, 1211.

         “The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the Court to decide evidentiary issues in advance of trial to avoid delay and ensure an evenhanded and expeditious trial.” Dry Clean Super Ctr., Inc. v. Kwik Indus., Inc., No. 08-cv-578-WJM-CBS, 2012 WL 503510, at *4 (D. Colo. Feb. 15, 2012). “Properly filed motions in limine permit the trial judge to eliminate from further consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not to be presented to the jury because they clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). Motions in limine “are designed to narrow the evidentiary issues for trial and to eliminate unnecessary trial interruptions.” Graves v. Dist. of Columbia, 850 F.Supp.2d 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2011) (quotation marks omitted). Limine motions “should target their arguments to demonstrating why certain items or categories of evidence should (or should not) be introduced at trial, and [they should] direct the trial judge to specific evidence in the record that would favor or disfavor the introduction of those particular items or categories of evidence.” Id. at 11.

         Some limine rulings, like those involving balancing under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, are necessarily preliminary because the required balancing may be reassessed as the evidence actually comes in at trial. Thus, a court's limine rulings are subject to change as the case unfolds or at the Court's discretion. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41-42 (1984). Or, a judge may decline to rule on an issue raised via limine motion, preferring to “await developments at trial before [so] ruling” to allow the “decision[ to] be better informed by the context, foundation, and relevance of the contested evidence within the framework of the trial as a whole.” Graves, 850 F.Supp.2d at 11 (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         The Court expects the parties' counsel to abide by these rulings. Counsel are to make relevant witnesses aware of the rulings indicated herein as well.

         II. Discussion and analysis

         A. Defendant's exclusion requests to which Plaintiff does not object

         Defendant asks the Court to exclude (i) “[p]ossible insurance coverage for Walmart, ” (ii) “[a]ccidents and/or injuries occurring at any other Walmart store[s], ” (iii) “[o]ther accidents and/or injuries occurring at the subject Walmart which are not substantially similar to the allegations made by Plaintiff, ” (iv) “[e]vidence of Walmart's financial information, net worth, sales information and the number of Walmart stores, ” and (v) testimony from Dr. Will Clark or “any report, calculation or opinions created by Dr. Will Clark.” Mot. 1-2, Doc. No. 28. Plaintiff indicates that he does not intend to present any such evidence. Accordingly, Defendant's requests for exclusion of these types of evidence are GRANTED based on the parties' agreements regarding the same.

         B. Defendant's subsequent remedial measures

         Defendant requests that the Court prohibit Plaintiff from “introducing [evidence] of subsequent measures to prove negligence or culpable conduct” under Rule 407. Mot. 5, Doc. No. 28. Plaintiff indicates that any evidence regarding post-injury actions taken by Defendant will be introduced for a permissible purpose-i.e., impeachment and to rebut defenses offered by Defendant. See Fed. R. Evid. 407.

         To the extent Defendant seeks to prevent Plaintiff from introducing video taken outside its restroom from immediately following when Plaintiff claims to have been injured, Defendant's exclusion request is denied. Based on the description of the video provided by both Plaintiff and Defendant, it appears to the Court that the video is relevant. Defendant's objection to the video is that it does not show the location where Plaintiff claims to have actually been injured. But Defendant may inquire of any witness with which Plaintiff's counsel discusses the video regarding what the vide does or does not show.

         Lacking sufficient context at this time to rule further on Defendant's limine request, the Court will reserve ruling on questions related to the remainder of this request until trial. If the Court allows admission of evidence falling within the scope of Rule 407, the Court will issue an appropriate limiting instruction to the jury at Defendant's request regarding their ...

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