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King v. Cole's Poultry, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

February 9, 2017

JAMES E. KING, SR., et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
COLE'S POULTRY, LLC, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on defendant Peco Foods, Inc.'s (“Peco”) Omnibus Motion in Limine [428], in which Peco raises eighteen individual motions in limine. Plaintiffs filed a response opposing many of the motions. Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, in addition to relevant authorities and evidence, the Court is now prepared to rule.

         Standard for Motions in Limine

         “The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance of certain forecasted evidence.” Harkness v. Bauhaus U.S.A., Inc., 2015 WL 631512, at *1 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2015) (additional citations omitted). In this context, “[e]vidence should not be excluded . . . unless it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.”[1] Id. (quoting Fair v. Allen, 2011 WL 830291, at *1 (W.D. La. Mar. 3, 2011)) (emphasis added).

         Evidentiary rulings “should often be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice can be resolved in proper context.” Rivera v. Salazar, 2008 WL 2966006, at *1 (S.D. Tex. July 30, 2008) (citing Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975)). Moreover, the “[d]enial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded.” Gonzalez v. City of Three Rivers, 2013 WL 1150003, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 8, 2013) (quoting Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993); Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984)).

         This Court has previously emphasized that “[t]he purpose of motions in limine is not to re-iterate matters which are set forth elsewhere in the Rules of Civil Procedure or Rules of Evidence, but, rather, to identify specific issues which are likely to arise at trial, and which, due to their complexity or potentially prejudicial nature, are best addressed in the context of a motion in limine.” Maggette v. BL Development Corp., 2011 WL 2134578, at *4 (N.D. Miss. May 21, 2011) (emphasis in original); see also Estate of Wilson v. Mariner Health Care, Inc., 2008 WL 5255819, at*1 (N.D. Miss. Dec. 16, 2008) (“[M]otions in limine should be narrowly tailored to address issues which will likely arise at trial and which require a pre-trial ruling due to their complexity and/or the possibility of prejudice if raised in a contemporaneous objection.”). Additionally, a motion “set[ting] forth a lengthy laundry list of matters, most of them of a highly vague nature . . . constitutes an improper ‘shotgun' motion which fails to meet this court's standards for motions in limine.” Estate of Wilson, 2008 WL 5255819, at *1.

         Discussion

         With this standard in mind, the Court turns to the case at hand. As previously stated, within the present motion, Peco raised eighteen individual motions in limine. The Court has considered each motion and will address them in turn.

         First Motion:

         First, Peco requests that the Court exclude any evidence regarding alleged nuisances that occurred after July 20, 2011. On November 16, 2016, the Court entered an order denying Plaintiffs' motion to extend the damages period, rendering alleged nuisances that occurred after the filing of the instant suit irrelevant. Plaintiffs assert that they “generally do not oppose this motion. However, such evidence may be relevant at the punitive damages stage of this action.”

         The Court will grant Peco's motion as it pertains to the initial trial of this matter. If necessary, the Court will consider the issue at the punitive damages stage. Second Motion:

         Similar to its first motion, Peco also requests that the Court exclude “evidence regarding alleged damages or losses of use and enjoyment of Plaintiffs' properties after July 20, 2011.” Peco asserts that this evidence should be excluded for the same reasons set forth in its first motion. Plaintiffs state that they do not oppose the motion but that such evidence may be relevant at the punitive damages stage of this action.

         As with the first motion, the Court will grant the present motion, and it will take up the issue again at the punitive damages stage, if needed.

         Third Motion:

         Peco next argues that the Court should exclude “evidence regarding alleged physical symptoms, health problems, medical conditions, and/or emotional distress.” In support of this proposition, Peco states that “Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages solely for the alleged loss of use and enjoyment of their properties. They do not allege to have incurred any physical symptoms, health problems, medical conditions, and/or emotional distress caused by living in the vicinity of the Cole's and Skeels farms.”

         In opposition, Plaintiffs assert, in pertinent part:

motion fails to grasp the true nature of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs have stated, repeatedly, that they are not making true medical claims, nor will they seek compensation for any medical bills from any healthcare professional. This is because Plaintiffs' claims are not based upon medical injury. They are based fundamentally on their inability to use and enjoy their property, which may include certain symptomatic reactions that Plaintiffs may experience as a result of their exposure to noxious air laden with particulate matter.

         The Court finds Plaintiffs' argument to be well-taken. In the Court's view, the physical symptoms experienced by Plaintiffs are relevant to the extent that they tend to show their diminished ability to use and enjoy their property. This issue strikes the Court as one that would likely be proper to address in a jury instruction. The Court declines, however, to exclude the evidence altogether; accordingly, the motion will be denied.

         Fourth Motion:

         Peco also asserts that “[t]he Court should prevent any testimony or evidence that Plaintiffs may incur health problems or medical conditions in the future caused by living in the vicinity of the Skeels and Cole's farms. Moreover, the Court should exclude any testimony by Plaintiffs that they have fears or concerns about potential health problems or medical conditions in the future that may be caused by alleged hazardous substances, pathogens, toxins, odors, or other emanations from the poultry farms.” To this point, Peco emphasizes that Plaintiffs cannot recover damages based on their fear of potential future injuries under Mississippi law.

         Plaintiffs assert that they have not and do not intend to seek compensation for future medical injuries. “Rather, Plaintiffs only seek recovery for present injuries and concerns, such as anxiety and discomfort as a result of Defendant's frequent and unreasonable invasion of Plaintiffs' properties.” Further, Plaintiffs state that they “have properly limited any alleged damages to present inconvenience, annoyance, and discomfort, including anxiety about their inability to plan for or use their property, and feeling trapped inside their homes by the offensive and oppressive odors generated by Defendant.”

         The Court finds that Peco's motion should be denied, as Plaintiffs do not appear to be pursuing the future damages which Peco asserts are impermissible. The Court will not permit Plaintiffs to attempt to obtain recovery based on their fear for potential future injuries; however, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' anxiety and discomfort concerning the present and future state of their properties is admissible. Accordingly, the motion will be denied.

         Fifth Motion:

         Peco requests that the Court exclude “any suggestion at trial that Peco operates in a manner that supports animal cruelty[.]” Plaintiffs do not oppose the motion. Therefore, it will be granted.

         Sixth ...


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