Curlin v. Seaboard Foods, LLC
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 22 Motion in Limine. Signed by Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen on 2/25/2015. (dle)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
SEABOARD FOODS, LLC,
Defendant Seaboard Foods, LLC (“Seaboard”) moves the Court for an order
in limine with respect to seven categories of evidence. For the reasons explained,
the Court grants three of the motions and denies all others.
Evidence shall be excluded in limine only when it is shown that the
evidence is “inadmissible on all potential grounds.” BNSF Ry. v. Quad City
Testing Laboratory, Inc., 2010 WL 4337827 at *1 (D. Mont. 2010) (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted). “Unless evidence meets this high standard,
evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation,
relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.” Id. “This is
because although rulings on motions in limine may save time, costs, effort and
preparation, a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess
the value and utility of evidence.” Id.
The Court analyzes Defendant’s motions in limine with the above legal
standard in mind. For the most part, Defendant’s motions in limine are general in
nature and address evidentiary issues that are best left until the time of trial. The
Court will address each motion in turn.
1. Evidence of Emotional Distress
Seaboard moves to exclude “any evidence, argument, innuendo, or reference
to any alleged emotional distress, mental suffering, worry, anguish, angst, pain, or
suffering of economic or financial hardship by Plaintiff Michael Curlin or his
family, at trial.” (Doc. 22 at 2.) Seaboard contends any such evidence straying
into the area of Plaintiff’s emotions surrounding his discharge is irrelevant and
must be excluded. While it is true that damages for emotional distress are not
available in a Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act case, Montana Code
Annotated § 39-2-905(3), this does not mean that any evidence touching in any
way on a plaintiff’s emotions is necessarily irrelevant “on all potential grounds.”
Quad City Testing Laboratory, Inc., 2010 WL 4337827 at *1.
As is evident from the summary judgment briefing, Seaboard contends that
Curlin left the premises without fanfare or objection. It appears that Seaboard may
attempt to use Curlin’s lack of emotional response to his termination to attempt to
demonstrate that he voluntarily refused a drug test—making Curlin’s emotions
potentially relevant. Furthermore, to the extent that the requested order in limine
would preclude Curlin from testifying to the extent of his lost wages, as such
testimony could arguably be construed as “inuendo” touching on his financial
hardship, Seaboard’s request is overbroad. Accordingly, Seaboard’s Motion in
Limine Number One is denied.
Evidence of Seaboard’s size or wealth
Seaboard moves to preclude “any evidence, argument, innuendo, or
reference to its size or wealth.” (Doc. 22 at 2.) Again, Seaboard’s request is
overbroad in the context of the standard for issuance of an order in limine, which
requires such evidence to be “inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Quad City
Testing Laboratory, Inc., 2010 WL 4337827 at *1. Reference to Seaboard’s size
may be relevant to Seaboard’s need for a drug testing policy, the manner in which
this policy is implemented, the nature and development of its employee handbook,
the nature of its human resources department, etc. The Court is not in a position to
say that any and all such evidence or innuendo about Seaboard’s size is per se
irrelevant and inadmissible on all potential grounds. On the other hand, the Court
cannot conceive of any issue in this case that would make evidence of Seaboard’s
wealth relevant. Nevertheless, objection to inappropriate evidence pertaining to
Seaboard’s size and wealth must be made in the context of trial. Accordingly,
Seaboard’s Motion in Limine Number Two is denied.
Failure to Call Witnesses
Seaboard moves the Court for an order “prohibiting Curlin from making any
argument or statement that Seaboard has failed to call any particular witness who
would be available equally to either Curlin or Seaboard through the subpoena
process.” (Doc. 23 at 5.) Seaboard argues that this evidence would be irrelevant.
The Court has no frame of reference to assess this motion in limine and is
perplexed as to what such an order would accomplish and why. Seaboard’s
Motion in Limine Number Three is denied.
Exclusion of Conduct During Discovery
Seaboard asks that both parties “be prohibited from making any argument or
statement that either party or its counsel objected to discovery requests or failed to
provide any information during the course of discovery.” (Doc. 23 at 5.) The
Court agrees that such evidence is irrelevant and should be excluded. Seaboard’s
Motion in Limine Number Four is granted.
Golden Rule Argument
Neither party will be allowed to violate the “golden rule” during closing
argument. Seaboard’s Motion in Limine Number Five is granted.
Comments on Pretrial Motions
Seaboard asks that both parties “be prohibited from making any comment or
reference to any pretrial motion, including motion to exclude evidence.” (Doc. 23
at 6.) The Court agrees that such comment or reference to pretrial motions would
be irrelevant. Accordingly, Seaboard’s Motion in Limine Number Six is granted.
Plaintiff’s Closing Argument
Seaboard seeks an order prohibiting Curlin from reserving or taking more
time for rebuttal in his closing argument than used in his inital portion of the
closing argument. The motion is not premised on any rule of evidence or law and
seeks to invade the discretion of the Court to control proceedings at trial.
Accordingly, this portion of Seaboard’s Motion in Limine Number Seven is
Seaboard also asks that Curlin be precluded from raising new information
during rebuttal that was not raised in the initial portion of the closing argument.
(Doc. 23 at 7.) The Court agrees that the purpose of rebuttal is to respond to the
arguments of the opposing party, and the Court will enforce this general rule. But
it will be the responsibility of Seaboard’s counsel to object at the time of trial if it
believes Curlin has violated this general rule. An order in limine is unnecessary.
This portion of Seaboard’s Motion in Limine Number Seven is also denied.
IT IS ORDERED that Seaboard’s motions in limine (Doc. 22) are
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART consistent with this order.
DATED this 25th day of February, 2015.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?