Sloan v. Drury Hotels Company, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell on 9/15/16; granting in part and denying in part 41 Motion in Limine. cc: Counsel(DJT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:15-CV-00061-TBR
DRURY HOTELS COMPANY, LLC,
JOAN ROSS SQUIRES,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In anticipation of the approaching trial in this action, the Drury Hotels Company,
LLC has filed a motion in limine to preclude any evidence, reference, or testimony
regarding its responsibility, if any, for the additional care that Karen Sloan’s daughter,
Elizabeth Azar, required after Mrs. Sloan’s accident. For the reasons that follow, the
Drury Hotels Company’s Second Motion in Limine, [R. 41], is GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
In March 2014, Terry and Karen Sloan decided to stay at the Drury Inn located in
Paducah, Kentucky, for an extended period while repairs were made to their home. [R.
51 at 1 (Mrs. Sloan’s Pretrial Memorandum).] The Sloans, who owned three small dogs,
selected the Drury Inn because of its pet-friendly policies.
During the early
morning hours of March 7, Mrs. Sloan took her dogs outside for a walk. [Id.] When
Mrs. Sloan exited the Drury Inn, Joan Squires, who was also a guest there, was in the
“pet relief area” across the parking lot. [See R. 35 at 1–2 (Drury Hotels Company’s
Pretrial Memorandum).] She had been walking her dog too, though, unlike Mrs. Sloan,
without a leash. [Id. at 1.] As Mrs. Sloan made her way to the pet relief area, she fell,
injuring her left elbow. [R. 51 at 1.]
The parties disagree as to what caused her fall. [Compare R. 30 at 1–2 (Squires’
Pretrial Memorandum), and R. 51 at 1–3, with R. 35 at 1–2.] According to Mrs. Sloan,
she encountered a patch of black ice in the parking lot and lost her footing. [R. 51 at 1.]
The Drury Hotels Company, however, posits a different theory: It blames Squires’ dog
for startling Mrs. Sloan’s dogs which caused her fall after she became entangled in their
leashes. [R. 35 at 1–2.]
In March 2015, Karen Sloan filed this slip-and-fall action against the Drury
Hotels Company, LLC, in McCracken Circuit Court, alleging the Drury Hotels
Company’s failure to exercise reasonable care caused her fall and resulting injuries. [See
R. 1-3 at 4–5, ¶¶ 12–24 (Complaint).] The Drury Hotels Company timely removed that
action to this Court, [see R. 1 at 1–2, ¶¶ 1–4 (Notice of Removal)], and subsequently
impleaded Joan Squires, seeking indemnity and contribution, [see R. 20 at 2–6, ¶¶ 6–30
(Third-Party Complaint)]. With the prospect of a trial approaching, the Drury Hotels
Company has filed a motion in limine to preclude any evidence, reference, or testimony
regarding its responsibility, if any, for the additional care that Mrs. Sloan’s daughter
required after the accident. [R. 41 at 1 (Drury Hotels Company’s Second Motion in
Using the inherent authority to manage the course of trials before it, this Court
may exclude irrelevant, inadmissible, or prejudicial evidence through in limine rulings.
See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (citing Fed. R. Evid. 103(c));
Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 561 (6th Cir. 2013); Mahaney ex rel. Estate of
Kyle v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 835 F. Supp. 2d 299, 303 (W.D. Ky. 2011). Unless such
evidence is patently “inadmissible for any purpose,” Jonasson v. Lutheran Child &
Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997), though, the “better practice” is to defer
evidentiary rulings until trial, Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708,
712 (6th Cir. 1975), so that “questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice
may be resolved in proper context,” Gresh v. Waste Servs. of Am., Inc., 738 F. Supp. 2d
702, 706 (E.D. Ky. 2010). A ruling in limine is “no more than a preliminary, or advisory,
opinion.” United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing United
States v. Luce, 713 F.2d 1236, 1239 (6th Cir. 1983), aff’d, 469 U.S. 38). Consequently,
the Court may revisit its in limine rulings at any time and “for whatever reason it deems
appropriate.” Id. (citing Luce, 713 F.2d at 1239).
The Drury Hotels Company seeks to preclude any testimony or argument
suggesting that it should be responsible for the additional care that Elizabeth Azar, Mrs.
Sloan’s daughter, required after Mrs. Sloan’s accident. [R. 41 at 1.] Mrs. Sloan does not
seek damages for the additional care Azar required, and so does not oppose the Drury
Hotels Company’s motion on that point. [R. 61 at 2 (Mrs. Sloan’s Response).] However,
Mrs. Sloan maintains that Azar’s testimony is “appropriate to show the jury how the
accident” affected Mrs. Sloan’s life. [Id.] The Court agrees: While no party shall make
reference to the Drury Hotels Company’s responsibility, if any, for the additional care
that Azar required after Mrs. Sloan’s accident, Azar may testify about how the accident
affected her mother’s life.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Drury Hotels Company, LLC’s Second
Motion in Limine, [R. 41], is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. No party
shall make reference to the Drury Hotels Company’s responsibility, if any, for the
additional care that Karen Sloan’s daughter, Elizabeth Azar, required after Mrs. Sloan’s
accident. However, Azar may testify about how the accident affected Mrs. Sloan’s life.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
September 15, 2016
Counsel of Record
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