Phillip A. Giuffre v. P.O. Karen Jefferson
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 4/17/17.Mailed notice(ca, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
PHILIP A. GIUFFRE,
P.O. KAREN JEFFERSON #6856,
P.O. AMY HURLEY #19490,
P.O. MICHAEL SHEPHARD #9736,
P.O. MARLENE SMOLEK #5499,
P.O. MALCOLM DOMIO #7900,
P.O. MAUREEN WEBB #12525, and
the CITY OF CHICAGO,
14 C 3692
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Philip Giuffre, a firefighter employed by the City of Chicago, has sued
City of Chicago police officers Karen Jefferson, Amy Hurley, Michael Shephard,
Marlene Smolek, Malcolm Domio, and Maureen Webb (together, “the Officer
Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that, on July 11, 2013, the
Officer Defendants pulled into a parking lot where he was sitting, ordered him to exit
his car, and shot him multiple times. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brings a
Fourth Amendment claim for use of excessive force, as well as a state law battery
claim. The City of Chicago is a party to the suit as a nominal defendant, because it has
agreed to indemnify the Officer Defendants for any compensatory damages awarded.
Shortly before trial, Defendants filed a motion in limine  seeking to bar
Plaintiff from claiming compensatory damages based on the medical bills arising from
his injuries. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is denied.
“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.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4
Rulings in limine avoid delay and allow the parties the opportunity to
prepare themselves and witnesses for the introduction or exclusion of the applicable
evidence. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999); United States
v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). District courts have broad discretion
in ruling on evidentiary issues before trial. See United States v. Chambers, 642
F.3d 588, 594 (7th Cir. 2011); Cefalu v. Vill. of Elk Grove, 211 F.3d 416, 426 (7th
Cir. 2000). Moreover, rulings on motions in limine are “subject to change when the
case unfolds.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41; accord Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust of
Chi., 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006).
Defendants have moved to bar any testimony, evidence, or claims regarding
compensation of Plaintiff’s medical bills arising from the events on July 11, 2013.
In the alternative, Defendants request that they be permitted to introduce evidence
that the City of Chicago has already paid, and will continue to pay, Plaintiff’s
medical bills. In support, they assert that Plaintiff, as an employee of the City of
Chicago, participates in the City of Chicago’s self-funded employee health insurance
plan. Under that plan, they argue, the City of Chicago has already paid around
$524,000 of Plaintiff’s medical expenses. See Defs.’ Mot. Limine No. 12 at 2, ECF
No. 172; see also id., Ex. A (itemizing benefits paid through the City of Chicago’s
employee health plan on behalf of Plaintiff). Because the City of Chicago has also
agreed to indemnify the Officer Defendants for any compensatory damages awarded
at trial, Defendants contend that allowing Plaintiff to recover damages based on his
medical bills will permit a double recovery, because it will effectively require the
City of Chicago to pay for Plaintiff’s medical bills twice—once under its self-funded
employee health plan, and once more under its indemnification arrangement with
the Officer Defendants.
In his response brief, as during the pretrial conference and at a motion
hearing held on April 12, 2017, Plaintiff counters that Defendants have offered
insufficient proof that the City of Chicago, rather than Blue Cross Blue Shield of
Illinois (BCBS), paid for Plaintiff’s medical expenses. 1 In addition, Plaintiff argues
that the collateral source rule should bar evidence that the City of Chicago has
already paid for Plaintiff’s medical expenses by way of its employee health plan.
Under the collateral source rule, the amount of damages a plaintiff may be
awarded is not decreased by the amount of payments he receives from an
independent, collateral source in connection with his injury. See, e.g., E.E.O.C. v.
O’Grady, 857 F.2d 383, 389–90 (7th Cir. 1988); Stragapede v. City of Evanston, 125
F. Supp. 3d 818, 826 (N.D. Ill. 2015). “The idea behind the [collateral source rule],
which originated in tort law, is that damages measured by the injury are essential
Defendants assert that BCBS is merely a third-party administrator that the City of
Chicago has hired to process claims under its employee health plan. Reply at 2, ECF
No. 177; see also id., Ex. A (affidavit of Carol Hamburger, Managing Deputy Comptroller of
the City of Chicago’s Department of Finance).
to deterrence.” U.S. Can Co. v. N.L.R.B., 254 F.3d 626, 631 (7th Cir. 2001). “The
collateral source rule thus focuses on what the tortfeasor and collateral source
should pay, not on what the plaintiff should receive.” O’Grady, 857 F.2d at 390;
accord Stragapede, 125 F. Supp. 3d at 826. “The collateral source rule applies to
§ 1983 actions.” Perry v. Larson, 794 F.2d 279, 286 (7th Cir. 1986). 2
Of particular importance to this case, the identity of the person or entity who
makes a collateral payment to the plaintiff is not dispositive of whether the
collateral source rule applies. Instead, “‘[a]pplication of the collateral source rule
depends less upon the source of funds than upon the character of the benefits
Molzof v. United States, 6 F.3d 461, 465 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Haughton v. Blackships, Inc., 462 F.2d 788, 790 (5th Cir. 1972)). “[I]n order to
determine whether the collateral source rule is applicable, courts have looked to the
nature of the payment and the reason the payment is being made rather than
simply looking at whether the defendant is paying twice.” Id. As a result, a source
In general, “[f]ederal common law principles of tort and damages govern recovery
under [§] 1983.” Watts v. Laurent, 774 F.2d 168, 179 (7th Cir. 1985). The Seventh Circuit
has therefore applied the federal common law collateral source rule in § 1983 cases. See
Perry, 794 F.2d at 286. The parties, however, have cited both federal and Illinois case law
in their filings, and they have not addressed whether the federal or state rule should apply
where, as here, a plaintiff invokes federal supplemental jurisdiction to bring both a § 1983
claim and a state law tort claim. In any event, the Illinois collateral source rule does not
appear to conflict with its federal counterpart, and neither party has argued otherwise.
Compare id., with City of Chi. v. Human Rights Comm’n, 637 N.E.2d 589, 592 (Ill. App. Ct.
1994) (“Under the collateral source rule, the amount of damages a plaintiff is entitled to in
a civil action will not be decreased by the amount of benefits the plaintiff received from a
source wholly independent and collateral to the wrongdoer.”). The Court therefore need not
engage in a choice-of-law analysis. See Houben v. Telular Corp., 309 F.3d 1028, 1030 (7th
of funds “‘may be determined to be collateral or independent, even though the
[tortfeasor] supplies such funds.’” Id. (quoting Haughton, 462 F.2d at 790).
Even assuming as true Defendants’ assertion that the City of Chicago, rather
than BCBS, paid for Plaintiff’s medical expenses, the nature of the payments and
the reason why the payments were made call for application of the collateral source
rule. First, the City of Chicago paid for Plaintiff’s medical expenses as part of its
self-funded health insurance plan, in which Plaintiff participates as a municipal
employee. The Seventh Circuit has suggested that employment benefits, including
benefits received through participation in an employer’s health plan, are collateral
benefits that should not be offset from a damages award against the employer. See
U.S. Can, 254 F.3d at 634 (“[H]ealth insurance is treated as a collateral source even
when the [defendant-employer] provides insurance as a fringe benefit.”); see also
O’Grady, 857 F.2d at 391 (analogizing pension benefits to employer-provided
insurance benefits in holding that pension benefits should not be deducted from
back-pay award because “pension benefits may be viewed as earned by the
claimants”). Here, payments made to Plaintiff through his employer’s health plan
are best characterized as an employment benefit, rather than as a form of
compensation for wrongful conduct committed by the Officer Defendants or other
City of Chicago employees. Thus, to allow Defendants to deduct those payments
from Plaintiff’s damages award would be to “permit the [City of Chicago] to
appropriate a portion of [Plaintiff’s] own economic-benefits package,” a result that
the collateral source rule is designed to avoid. U.S. Can, 254 F.3d at 634.
Furthermore, barring Plaintiff from claiming compensatory damages based
on his medical expenses would undermine one of the primary objectives that
damages awards are meant to serve: deterrence of wrongdoing. See id. at 631–35.
Because Plaintiff participates in the City of Chicago’s employee health plan, the
City of Chicago would have paid for Plaintiff’s medical expenses regardless of
whether Plaintiff was injured wrongfully.
Allowing Defendants to reduce
compensatory damages by the amount of these health insurance payments would
therefore give Defendants a windfall and marginally reduce the deterrent effect of
the damages award. See McKenna v. City of Memphis, 544 F. Supp. 415, 420 (W.D.
Tenn. 1982) (refusing to deduct medical expenses from compensatory damages in
§ 1983 case where plaintiff and defendant were employed by the same municipality,
because the municipality paid its employees’ medical expenses “without regard to
negligence or liability of others, including fellow employees”), aff’d, 785 F.2d 560
(6th Cir. 1986); see also Stragapede, 125 F. Supp. 3d at 826–29 (refusing to deduct
Social Security disability insurance payments from plaintiffs’ back-pay award under
collateral source rule, in part because the insurance payments “would be made
regardless of whether the [defendant] acted wrongfully”).
What is more, if the City of Chicago had not agreed to indemnify the Officer
Defendants, there would be no question that Plaintiff could seek compensatory
damages against them based on his medical expenses. See Perry, 794 F.2d at 286
(applying collateral source rule in § 1983 case); Hare v. Zitek, No. 02 C 3973, 2006
WL 2088427, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 24, 2006) (same); see also O’Grady, 857 F.2d at
The fact that the City of Chicago has agreed for its own reasons to
indemnify the Officer Defendants should not impact the amount of compensatory
damages that Plaintiff may seek against them in order to deter any future
wrongdoing. 3 Put another way, to serve the deterrence objective that underlies the
collateral source rule, Plaintiff should be permitted to seek the same measure of
compensatory damages against the Officer Defendants as he would be able to seek
in the absence of their indemnification arrangement with the City of Chicago.
In nevertheless arguing that Plaintiff should be barred from seeking damages
based on the cost of his medical care, Defendants cite U.S. Can Co. v. N.L.R.B., 254
F.3d 626 (7th Cir. 2001), for the proposition that “the collateral source rule would
not apply to exclude evidence of severance pay in a calculation of back pay damages
because the employer had already made the employee whole for the missing wages.”
Defs.’ Mot. Limine No. 12 at 2–3.
Defendants’ reading of U.S. Can, however,
overlooks several key points from the decision. In U.S. Can, the court discussed a
hypothetical in which an employer promised to pay its employee six months’ wages
as a lump-sum severance payment upon the employee’s discharge. 254 F.3d at 632.
In the hypothetical, the employer discharged the employee and paid the lump sum
Indeed, Defendants implicitly acknowledged the indemnification arrangement’s
irrelevance to the appropriate amount of damages in a prior motion in limine asking the
Court to bar evidence regarding indemnification by the City of Chicago. Defs.’ Mot. Limine
No. 5 at 1, ECF No. 123. In support of the motion, Defendants argued: “[W]hether or not
the City of Chicago indemnifies the Defendant Officers is completely irrelevant to the issue
of whether [any] of the Defendant Officers is liable. . . . Knowledge that the City of
Chicago will indemnify the Defendant Officers . . . can also lead jurors to inflate an award
out of sympathy or other irrelevant factors.” Id. at 1–2. The Court agreed with Defendants’
argument and accordingly granted their motion to bar evidence regarding indemnification.
Order of 3/17/17, at 3, ECF No. 167 (citing Lawson v. Trowbridge, 153 F.3d 368, 379–80
(7th Cir. 1998)).
as promised. Id. Six months later, however, the National Labor Relations Board
determined that the discharge was unlawful and ordered the employee to be
Once the employee was reinstated, the employer
restored its promise to pay six months’ wages as severance pay upon the employee’s
future, lawful discharge.
The Seventh Circuit explained that, in such a
scenario, the employee would not be entitled to back pay for the six months of his
unemployment, because the employer already paid wages for those six months and,
importantly, also restored its promise to make a future severance payment. Id.
The severance-payment hypothetical in U.S. Can is distinguishable from the
facts of the present case. Allowing an employer to offset a severance payment from
a back-pay award—unlike allowing an employer to offset health insurance
payments from a damages award—does not allow the employer to “appropriate a
portion of the employee’s own economic-benefits package,” as long as the employer
restores its promise to make another severance payment upon future discharge. Id.
at 632, 634.
Indeed, the U.S. Can court expressly distinguished severance
payments from employer-provided health insurance benefits on this basis. Id. at
The court also emphasized that the outcome of its severance-payment
hypothetical would be different (that is, the collateral source rule would apply) if,
upon the employee’s reinstatement, the employer failed to restore its promise to
make a future severance payment.
In this alternative version of the
hypothetical, allowing the employer to deduct the severance payment from back pay
would allow the severance payment to “vanish into the employer’s pocket,” thus
conferring a windfall on the employer and reducing the deterrent effect of the backpay award. Id. Likewise, permitting the City of Chicago to deduct Plaintiffs’ health
insurance payments from compensatory damages would allow the insurance
benefits “to vanish into the [City of Chicago’s] pocket,” impairing the deterrent
effect that compensatory damages awards are meant to have.
reasons, U.S. Can’s discussion of the collateral source rule undermines, rather than
supports, Defendants’ position. 4
Finally, the Court acknowledges Defendants’ point that applying the
collateral source rule in this case will have the effect of overcompensating Plaintiff
for his medical expenses (assuming, of course, that a jury finds the Officer
Defendants liable and awards compensatory damages against them).
overcompensation has long been recognized and accepted as a consequence of the
collateral source rule. As noted above, the rule “focuses on what the tortfeasor and
collateral source should pay, not on what the plaintiff should receive.” O’Grady, 857
F.2d at 390. “Indeed, [the rule’s] most obvious effect is that, in the interest of other
social policies, it allows plaintiffs to be made more than whole for wrongs committed
against them.” Id. (emphasis added). Moreover, “in a general discussion of the
Defendants also rely upon Smith v. Altman, No. 12-cv-4546 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2014).
In Smith, the plaintiff and defendant were both employees of the City of Chicago; thus, as
in this case, the City of Chicago had paid for some of the plaintiff’s medical expenses and
had also agreed to indemnify the defendant for compensatory damages. See id. at *2–3. In
its pretrial order, the court permitted the defendant to introduce evidence that the City of
Chicago had paid for plaintiff’s medical expenses, finding that the collateral source rule did
not apply and citing the severance-payment hypothetical from U.S. Can in support. Id. For
the same reasons that the Court is unpersuaded by Defendants’ reliance on U.S. Can, the
Court is also unpersuaded by their reliance on Smith.
application of the collateral source rule to employment benefits, the Seventh Circuit
has stated that if a court is faced with a choice between conferring a windfall on the
wrongdoer and conferring a windfall on the victim, the victim is the logical choice.”
Hillmann v. City of Chi., 66 F. Supp. 3d 1109, 1120 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (internal
quotation marks omitted); accord O’Grady, 857 F.2d at 391. As such, the fact that
applying the collateral source rule will potentially give Plaintiff a double recovery
for his medical expenses is not a basis for barring Plaintiff from claiming
compensatory damages in the amount of those expenses at trial.
For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’ motion in limine to bar any
testimony, evidence, or claims for compensation of medical bills  is denied.
Plaintiff shall not be barred from introducing testimony, evidence, or claims
regarding compensation of his medical bills arising from the events on July 11,
2013. In addition, Defendants shall not be permitted to introduce evidence that the
City of Chicago has already paid, or will continue to pay, Plaintiff’s medical bills.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
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