BNSF Railway Company v. Quad City Testing Laboratory

Filing 137

ORDER re 108 Defendant's Motion in Limine seeking to exclude testimony of Robert Sheridan. The Court RESERVES ruling on Sheridan's 8/24/05 Letter until FPTC. The court DENIES Defendant's Motion in that Sheridan will be permitted to testify as a fact witness re non-confidential mediation matters. Signed by Judge Richard F. Cebull on 10/26/2010. (EMA)

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BNSF Railway Company v. Quad City Testing Laboratory Doc. 137 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA B I L L I N G S DIVISION B N S F RAILWAY COMPANY, a D e la w a re Corporation, Plaintiff, vs . Q U A D CITY TESTING LA B O R A T O R Y , INC. D e fe nd a nt. C a s e No. CV-07-170-BLG-RFC ORDER P re s e ntly before the Court is Defendant Quad City Testing Laboratory, Inc.'s M o tio n in Limine seeking to exclude the testimony of Robert Sheridan [doc. #108]. STANDARD OF REVIEW M o tio ns in limine are procedural devices to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Judges have broad discretion when ruling on mo tio ns in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th 1 Cir.2002). However, a motion in limine should not be used to resolve factual d is p ute s or weigh evidence. C & E Services, Inc., v. Ashland Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 3 1 6 , 323 (D.D.C.2008). To exclude evidence on a motion in limine "the evidence mus t be inadmissible on all potential grounds." Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.S up p .2 d 844, 846 (N.D.Ohio 2004); Kiswani v. Phoenix Sec. Agency, Inc., 247 F.R .D . 554 (N.D.Ill.2008); Wilkins v. K-Mart Corp., 487 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1218-19 (D .K a n.2 0 0 7 ). "Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings s ho uld be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential p re jud ic e may be resolved in proper context." Hawthorne Partners v. AT & T Tech, In c ., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D.Ill.1993). This is because although rulings on mo tio ns in limine may save "time, costs, effort and preparation, a court is almost a lw a ys better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of e vid e nc e ." Wilkins, 487 F.Supp.2d at 1219. It is settled law that rulings on motions in limine are provisional. Such " rulings are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial." Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n. 3 (2000); accord L u c e v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984). "Denial of a motion in limine does no t necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted to trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to 2 determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded." Ind. Ins. Co. v. G e n . Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846. A N A L Y SIS D e fe nd a nt BNSF seeks to exclude Robert Sheridan's testimony on the gro und s that Plaintiff did not timely disclose Mr. Sheridan as an expert witness in c o nfo rmity with this Court's scheduling order; Mr. Sheridan's letter of August 24, 2 0 0 5 to counsel in the Christian case lacks the requisite foundation for a d mis s ib ility; and any information concerning what was said at the mediation is c o nfid e ntia l. Plaintiff does not object to some of the matters that Defendant seeks to e xc lud e . Plaintiff agrees that testimony from Mr. Sheridan about the details of what o c c urre d at the mediation in the Christian case and Mr. Sheridan's expert opinion a s to the "reasonableness" of the Christian settlement should be excluded. S he r id a n's August 24, 2005 letter Defendant seeks to exclude Mr. Sheridan's August 24, 2005 letter to counsel in the Christian case. Plaintiff intends to use the letter to prove that Plaintiff gave D e fe nd a nt timely notice of the Christian claim before it was settled and requests that D e fe nd a nt stipulate to this as an "Agreed Upon Fact" in the final pretrial order. The C o urt RESERVES ruling on this issue until the final pretrial conference. 3 Christian Mediation R o b e rt Sheridan mediated the underlying Christian case and has personal k no w le d ge about non-confidential facts pertaining to that mediation. Mr. Sheridan w ill be permitted to testify as a fact witness regarding non-confidential mediation ma tte rs that are within his personal knowledge. Defendant's Motion in Limine on this issue is DENIED. CONCLUSION Fo r the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's M o tio n in Limine re: Mediator Robert Sheridan (Doc. # 108) is DENIED IN PART. T he Clerk of Court shall notify the Parties of the making of this Order. D A T E D this 26th day of October, 2010. /s / Richard F. Cebull RICHARD F. CEBULL U . S. DISTRICT JUDGE 4

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