Smith v. Spectrum Health System
OPINION ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
File No. 1:l4-cv-1031
HON. ROBERT HOLMES BELL
SPECTRUM HEALTH SYSTEM,
This is a race discrimination and retaliation action brought by Plaintiff TaTanisha Smith, a
home health aide, against her former employer Defendant Spectrum Health System. Plaintiff has
filed a motion in limine to preclude Plaintiff’s former patient’s daughter from testifying. (ECF No.
29.) Defendant filed a response on September 8, 2015. (ECF No. 34.) For the reasons that follow,
Plaintiff’s motion in limine will be denied.
Plaintiff TaTanisha Smith is an African American woman who was employed as a home
health aide with Spectrum Health System from 2009 through 2014. On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff was
assigned to a new patient on a 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm shift that day. On March 26, that patient’s
daughter contacted Spectrum Health to complain that Plaintiff was late, unhelpful, and used her cell
phone. Plaintiff’s supervisor, Maria Sobol, scheduled an investigatory meeting with Plaintiff and a
Human Resources representative, Molly Getchell, on April 1 and again on April 7 to discuss the
daughter’s concerns. At the April 1 meeting, Plaintiff described her interactions with the client and
her daughter and her feeling that the daughter was racist. At the conclusion of the April 1 meeting,
Plaintiff inquired as to what would happen next and whether she would receive a disciplinary writeup or be terminated. Ms. Getchell said that she did not know what would happen next. At the April
7 meeting, Plaintiff stated that she had been kicked off of a case because of her skin color and asked
if she needed a lawyer to protect herself.
On April 14, 2014, Defendant terminated Plaintiff’s employment. Defendant proffers a
legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for firing Plaintiff: she arrived late for her shift, falsified her time
sheet, and acted unprofessionally by lying during an investigation about using her cell phone for a
personal phone call, by falsifying that she had reviewed the client’s care plan, and by assisting the
client, who had dementia and poor motor skills, to sign and verify her time sheet. Plaintiff argues
that Defendant’s reasons are merely pretext, and that retaliation was the true reason for Defendant’s
Defendant seeks to introduce the testimony of the patient’s daughter, “primarily for
impeachment/rebuttal purposes regarding her interaction with plaintiff, her dissatisfaction with
plaintiff’s job performance, and her expression of dissatisfaction with plaintiff’s performance to
defendant.” (ECF No. 29-2, Ex. 1.) Plaintiff argues that any testimony from the patient’s daughter
is irrelevant under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 401 or, in the alternative, that any relevance it
may have is more prejudicial than it is probative under Rule 403. Defendant argues that the patient’s
daughter’s testimony is highly relevant and not prejudicial.
The Court finds that the probative value of the patient’s daughter’s testimony is not
substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice. The complaint from the patient’s daughter
triggered the investigation that ultimately led to Plaintiff’s termination. Contrary to Plaintiff’s
assertion, Plaintiff was not discharged solely because of fraud related to her time sheet. Plaintiff’s
discharge notice states that Plaintiff was late, falsified her time sheet, and acted unprofessionally by
lying during an investigation about using her cell phone for a personal phone call, by falsifying that
she had reviewed the client’s care plan, and by assisting the client, who had dementia and poor motor
skills, to sign and verify her time sheet. (Discharge Notice, ECF No. 29-3, PageID #348.) As
Defendant notes, the patient’s daughter’s testimony bears directly on whether the reasons for
Plaintiff’s termination were legitimate rather than pretextual.
Plaintiff takes further issue with the fact that the identity of the patient’s daughter was not
disclosed until August 31, 2015, in Defendant’s Amended Initial Disclosures. While Plaintiff does
not explicitly say so, she presumably takes issue with the fact that the patient’s daughter’s name was
not listed in Defendant’s Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(a)(1)(A)(i) requires a party to list the name of “each individual likely to have discoverable
information–along with the subjects of that information–that the disclosing party may use to support
its claims or defenses, unless the use would be solely for impeachment.” Similarly, Rule 26(a)(3),
governing pretrial disclosure of witnesses, pertains to evidence that parties may present at trial “other
than solely for impeachment.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(3). As Defendant plans to call the patient’s
daughter “primarily for impeachment/rebuttal purposes,” the failure to disclose the patient’s
daughter’s name at an earlier date is not material.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s motion in limine to preclude her patient’s daughter
from testifying will be denied.
The Court will issue an Order consistent with this Opinion.
Dated: September 11, 2015
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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