Walker v. State Farm Insurance Company
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 15 defendant's Motion in Limine. Signed by District Judge George Caram Steeh. (MBea)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-10355
HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH
STATE FARM INSURANCE
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT’S MOTION IN LIMINE (DOC. 15)
Plaintiff Charles Walker alleges that defendant State Farm Insurance
Company breached the parties express and implied contract and violated
the Michigan Uniform Trade Practices Act. The matter is presently before
the Court on defendant’s motion in limine seeking to exclude a nonprosecution for arson argument and to redact portions of a fire department
incident report. For the reasons stated below, defendant’s motion is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Two months after plaintiff purchased homeowner’s insurance from
defendant, his property caught fire and sustained damage. The Detroit Fire
Department, led by Ladder 25 Lieutenant Percy Warmack and Engine 53
Captain James Payne, responded. Warmack later signed an incident
report prepared by an official identified by only his or her pension number.
(Doc. 15-1 at PageID 167). The report lists an unintentional cause of
ignition and notes that no human factors were present.
Defendant seeks to preclude testimony and argument regarding the
fact that plaintiff was never prosecuted for arson. It is well settled in the
Sixth Circuit that “[e]vidence of non-prosecution for arson is inadmissible,
whether during a party’s case-in-chief, during cross-examination, or during
rebuttal.” Kelly’s Auto Parts, No. 1, Inc. v. Boughton, 809 F.2d 1247, 1253
(6th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff asserts that he merely intends to argue that
defendant’s failure to report plaintiff’s actions to law enforcement indicates
a lack of evidence regarding its arson claims. This argument is prohibited
by Kelly. Defendant’s motion in limine is, therefore, granted as it relates to
plaintiff’s non-prosecution for arson.
Defendant cites Fed. R. Evid. 802, 403, 702, and 703 to argue that
the report’s statements on cause of ignition and human factors should be
redacted. Defendant asserts that the report’s author is unknown, the
information they relied on is unclear, and that “unintentional” has a unique
meaning – rather than accidental, it simply indicates that officials did not
detect any obvious signs of arson, like the scent of gasoline, upon entering
plaintiff’s home. Further, defendant relies on Captain Payne’s testimony
that, because the contested statements are contrary to other information in
the report, they must be a mistake.
Relying on this information, defendant asserts that the statements are
inadmissible hearsay, because they indicate a lack of trustworthiness that
precludes the application of Fed. R. Evid. 803(6) and 803(8). The Court
disagrees. Further, despite its unique connotation, the Court finds that the
probative value of the “unintentional” cause of ignition is not substantially
outweighed by a risk of misleading the jury.
Defendant’s motion in limine as it pertains to redacting the fire
department report is denied. The Court will conditionally admit the report,
subject to plaintiff establishing adequate foundation to satisfy Fed. R. Evid.
702 and 703.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: April 24, 2017
s/George Caram Steeh
GEORGE CARAM STEEH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
Copies of this Order were served upon attorneys of record on
April 24, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
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