Carroll v. Comprehensive Women's Health Services
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 53 55 MOTIONS in Limine.Signed by Honorable James M. Munley on 11/16/17. (sm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
COMPREHENSIVE WOMEN’S :
DAVID KREWSON, and
Before the court are defendants’ two motions in limine (Docs. 53 & 55) filed
on October 31, 2017. Defendants’ first motion seeks to bifurcate the trial into
liability and damages phases, or in the alternative, to bifurcate the trial and
preclude financial evidence (including defendants’ net worth) in the first phase of
the trial. (Doc. 53). Defendants’ second motion in limine seeks to preclude
evidence of and reference to any other discrimination claim filed against them,
including but not limited to the lawsuit filed by Judy Nagle. (Doc. 55).
Plaintiff opposes both motions in limine. The motions have been fully
briefed, and they are ripe for disposition.
This employment discrimination matter arises from the decision of
Defendants, Comprehensive Women’s Health Services, Dr. David Krewson, and
Dr. Robert Zimmerman (hereinafter “defendants,” collectively, or “CWHS,”
“Defendant Krewson,” or “Defendant Zimmerman”) to terminate Plaintiff Kathryn
Carroll’s (hereinafter “plaintiff”) employment one day after she requested medical
leave for genetic cancer testing and after previously taking leave for cancer
treatment. Plaintiff claims defendants terminated her employment in
contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
(hereinafter “ADA”), the Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act, 43 PA. CONS. STAT.
ANN. § 951, et seq. (hereinafter “PHRA”), and the Genetic Information NonDiscrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff, et seq. (hereinafter “GINA”). A pre-trial
conference is scheduled for November 17, 2017.
Defendants brought two motions in limine in advance of the pre-trial
conference, bringing the case to its current posture. The parties have briefed
their positions and the motions are ripe for disposition.
I. Motion to bifurcate the trial into liability and damages phases, or in the
alternative, to bifurcate the trial and preclude financial evidence (including
defendants’ net worth) in the first phase of the trial.
Standard of review
Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for bifurcated
trials as follows: “For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and
economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues,
claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third party claims. FED. R. CIV. P. 42(b).
Every civil trial contains questions of liability and damages, and the decision
whether to bifurcate the trial must be based on the particular facts of the case.
See Lis v. Robert Packer Hosp., 579 F.2d 819, 824 (3d Cir. 1978). The decision
to bifurcate is left in the trial court’s discretion and must be decided on a case-bycase basis. Idzojtic v. Pa. R.R. Co., 456 F.2d 1228, 1230 (3d Cir.1972). In
exercising such discretion the court “must weigh the various considerations of
convenience, prejudice to the parties, expedition and economy of resources.”
Emerick v. U.S. Suzuki Motor Corp., 750 F.2d 19, 22 (3d Cir. 1984). The moving
party bears the burden of establishing that bifurcation is appropriate. Innovative
Office Prods., Inc. v. Spaceco, Inc., No. 50-04307, 2006 WL 1340865 at *1 (E.D.
Pa. May 15, 2006) (citing Spectra-Physics Lasers, Inc. v. Uniphase Corp., 144
F.R.D. 99, 101 (N.D. Cal. 1992).
Defendants argue that bifurcation is appropriate here. Defendants’ position
is that trial bifurcation into liability and damages phases would streamline the
case and protect against jury confusion. Alternatively, defendants suggest
bifurcation into liability and compensatory damages in the first phase, and
punitive damages in the second phase, should the jury believe they are
appropriate. Defendants are concerned that evidence related to their personal
finances might conflate the issues, confuse the jury, and suggest to the jury that
it render a verdict on an improper consideration.
We are confident that, with the assistance of able counsel, we can
construct a jury charge and verdict slips that will prevent prejudice to either party.
We presume that a jury follows instructions, even in the most difficult cases, and
find that proper instructions will prevent any prejudicial confusion. See, e.g.,
Thaubalt v. Chait, 541F.3d 512, 530-31 (3d Cir. 2008) (upholding the decision
not to bifurcate the trial in part because the court’s instructions prevented
prejudice against the defendant.) Thus, defendants’ first motion in limine will be
II. Motion in limine to preclude evidence of, and reference to, any other
discrimination claim filed against them, including but not limited to the
lawsuit filed by Judy Nagle 1
Other discrimination claims have been brought against defendants,
including a pending federal lawsuit brought by Judy Nagle, plaintiff’s former
supervisor. Defendants seek to preclude this evidence from trial as irrelevant to
the claim at bar.
Because this motion in limine addresses evidentiary issues, first we will
briefly explain rules of admissibility. Generally, relevant evidence is admissible in
The parties have learned that Nagle herself has filed an employment
discrimination lawsuit against defendant herein, Comprehensive Women’s Health
Services, P.C., docketed at 15-cv-0042 (M.D. Pa.).
a trial and irrelevant evidence is not admissible. FED. R. EVID. 402. “Relevant
evidence” is “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact
that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less
probable than it would be without the evidence.” FED. R. EVID. 401. Relevant
evidence may be precluded, however, where “its probative worth is substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or
misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or
needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” FED. R. EVID. 403.
Defendants are understandably concerned with the relevance of Judy
Nagle’s lawsuit to plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff admits she is properly precluded from
introducing evidence of Nagle’s suit as substantive evidence. FED. R. EVID.
404(b). (See Doc. 57 at 2). Plaintiff argues, however, that the existence of the
Nagle lawsuit may be used for impeachment.
We agree with plaintiff. If defendants testify in such a way that impeaching
them with the existence of other lawsuits becomes appropriate, then evidence of
the other lawsuits will be admissible. Therefore evidence of Nagle’s
discrimination lawsuit against defendants will be precluded as substantive
evidence in plaintiff’s case, but not precluded for impeachment purposes.
After a careful review, defendants’ first motion in limine, (Doc. 53), shall be
denied, and defendants’ second motion in limine, (Doc. 55), shall be granted in
part and denied in part. An appropriate order follows.
Date: November 16, 2017
s/ James M. Munley
JUDGE JAMES M. MUNLEY
United States District Court
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