Phillip v. Coffee County, Tennessee et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 75 Motion in Limine. Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan K Lee on 9/7/21. (CNC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JOHN CARROLL, CHASE STRANGE, and
Before the Court is a motion in limine [Doc. 75 (motion) & Doc. 76 (supporting brief)]
filed by Defendants John Carroll, Chase Strange, and Dakota Liles (“Defendants”). The motion
contains six in limine requests. Plaintiff filed a response [Doc. 85], indicating he does not oppose
request numbers two through six. Defendants filed a reply to respond to Plaintiff’s arguments
concerning their first in limine request [Doc. 89].
Accordingly, the motion [Doc. 75] is GRANTED IN PART as to Defendants’ in limine
requests numbers two through six. The following items are EXCLUDED from the trial of this
any disciplinary evidence and/or statements contained in Defendant
Strange’s personnel file, including the items listed on Docket No. 76, Page
ID # 443 (page 2 of Defendants’ brief);1
the excerpts from Defendant Strange’s deposition testimony listed on
Docket No. 76, Page ID # 444-45 (pages 3 and 4 of Defendants’ brief);
In their motion, Defendants ask for the entire personnel file to be excluded; however, in their
brief, Defendants limit their request to exclusion of disciplinary evidence/statements.
Case 4:18-cv-00004-SKL Document 92 Filed 09/07/21 Page 1 of 4 PageID #: 545
any reference to the appropriateness of Coffee County’s customs, policies,
any testimony, argument, or proof of any kind related to the existence of
insurance coverage; and
evidence of criminal charges and incarceration of Defendant Carroll.
If Plaintiff wishes to attempt to introduce any of this evidence at trial for any reason, he is
ORDERED to first raise the issue with the Court outside the presence of the jury.
This leaves Defendants’ first in limine request. In that request, Defendants ask the Court
to exclude “argument, testimony, [and] evidence regarding Officer Strange’s failure to intervene
during the second attack,” referring to the alleged assault of Plaintiff by other inmates on May 15,
2021 [Doc. 76 at Page ID # 442]. They also seek to exclude any argument/proof/testimony that
Defendant Strange witnessed the second attack [id. at Page ID # 443]. Defendants point out the
Sixth Circuit dismissed Plaintiff’s failure-to-intervene claim against Strange based on this
incident,2 and argue that, as a result, “Plaintiff should be precluded from arguing or bringing into
The Sixth Circuit held:
Roberts also alleges deliberate indifference against Strange for his failure to
intervene during the second assault. Roberts testified that the inmates assaulted
him in his cell, and that during the assault, “Strange was in the tower, supposedly
watching over the pod to keep us safe,” R. 56-2, PID 239. However, there is no
evidence that Strange, from his position in the tower, could or actually did see the
inmates assaulting Roberts, or that he had time to intervene but failed to do so. Cf.
Richko, 819 F.3d at 919-20 (affirming denial of summary judgment where the
plaintiff presented evidence that loud sounds such as the banging, yelling, and
pounding that were made during the assault could be heard from the duty station
where the guard was located, and thus presented sufficient evidence that the guard
“simply chose not to respond” despite hearing the assault take place). Accordingly,
Roberts has not presented a genuine dispute of material fact about whether Strange
was deliberately indifferent by failing to intervene in the second assault.
Roberts v. Coffee Cnty., Tenn., 826 F. App’x 549, 555 (6th Cir. 2020).
Case 4:18-cv-00004-SKL Document 92 Filed 09/07/21 Page 2 of 4 PageID #: 546
evidence any proof/testimony that Officer Strange witnessed the second attack or failed to
intervene during the second attack.” [Doc. 76 at Page ID # 443].
Plaintiff responds that he “does not plan to argue anything about Strange’s failure to
intervene,” but that he “should be allowed to testify that Strange was present in the tower, testify
about his conversation with the tower shortly after the second attack, and argue that these points
served to put Strange on further notice about the serious danger leading up to the third attack.”
[Doc. 85 at Page ID # 519-20 (footnote omitted)].
Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference/failure to protect claim against Defendant Strange
requires Plaintiff to show Defendant Strange was subjectively aware of a substantial risk to
Plaintiff’s safety and disregarded the risk. See Roberts, 826 F. App’x at 552 (citing Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). “An official is deliberately indifferent if he ‘knows of and
disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts
from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of harm exists, and he must also
draw the inference.’” Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). Defendant Strange’s knowledge of the
second attack, however obtained, is therefore relevant.
The Court finds some limited inquiry into the tower incident is not foreclosed by the Sixth
Circuit’s ruling. For one, the ruling was on summary judgment, and the proof at trial may differ.
Moreover, Plaintiff will not be permitted to argue or present testimony that Defendant Strange
should have intervened, nor will he be permitted to speculate as to whether Defendant Strange
observed (or should have observed) the attack from his vantage point or the reason why (or why
not). But the Court is not persuaded that Plaintiff should not be permitted to testify (subject to
cross examination) that he saw Defendant Strange in the tower; nor should he be prohibited from
Case 4:18-cv-00004-SKL Document 92 Filed 09/07/21 Page 3 of 4 PageID #: 547
asking Defendant Strange if he was in the tower, and if so, whether he observed the attack, and
whether he had a conversation with Plaintiff about the attack afterwards, as Plaintiff claims.3
In their reply, Defendants argue, “Plaintiff can only speculate that it was Strange who was
in the tower when he voiced his concerns over the intercom following the second attack.” [Doc.
89 at Page ID # 536]. But Plaintiff claims he had a conversation with a guard in the tower [Doc.
85 at Page ID # 521]. And Federal Rule of Evidence 901(5) permits lay witness opinion testimony
identifying a person’s voice. The 1972 advisory committee’s note to subdivision (b), example 5,
specifically states: “aural voice identification is not a subject of expert testimony.” Defendant
Strange can of course deny that he was in the tower or deny that he had the conversation, and the
jury can weigh his credibility against Plaintiff’s.
Defendants rely only on the Sixth Circuit’s ruling as the basis for exclusion, likely because
the relevance of Defendant Strange’s knowledge is, at least thus far, undisputed. Defendants cite
Rule 602 (Need for Personal Knowledge) in their reply, but that is adequately addressed herein.
For these reasons, Defendants’ motion in limine [Doc. 75] is DENIED IN PART as to the
first in limine request.
s/fâátÇ ^A _xx
SUSAN K. LEE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Strange’s sworn declaration does not specifically deny that he was in the tower; nor does he
specifically deny that he had a conversation with Plaintiff about the second assault through the
tower intercom [Doc. 51-1].
Case 4:18-cv-00004-SKL Document 92 Filed 09/07/21 Page 4 of 4 PageID #: 548
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