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Smith v. Union Insurance Co.

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

June 13, 2017




         Presently before the Court are eight motions in limine filed by defendant Union Insurance Company (“Union”). Plaintiff Anthony Smith (“Smith”) filed a response as to each motion, conceding some of them and setting forth his arguments in opposition to many of them. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions, in conjunction with relevant authorities, and is now prepared to rule.[1]


          “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.”[2] 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.


         The Court will address each of Union's eight motions in turn. Motion to exclude testimony or other evidence regarding any physical injury [170]:

         In this motion, Union argues that the Court should exclude any evidence relating to Smith's physical injuries or physical limitations, stating that the complaint “alleges that Union's actions resulted in pain, discomfort and emotional distress, including worry and axiety [sic]. . . [but] does not make a claim for any physical injury, exacerbation of physical injury and/or permanent physical limitations as a result of Union's alleged delay.” Union additionally emphasizes multiple responses to interrogatories, wherein Smith makes no mention of any physical injury or limitations.

         In response, Smith avers that “[t]o the extent that [Union's] Motion seeks to exclude damages for the physical aspect of worry, anxiety, emotional distress together with unnecessarily incurred pain and discomfort caused by [Union's] delay and constructive denial for medical care[, Union's] Motion is misplaced. It is conceded that there is no allegation of any permanent physical limitation but Plaintiff has plainly alleged unnecessarily incurred pain and discomfort caused by delay in medical care and immense and ongoing worry, anxiety and emotional distress caused by that delay that are indeed physical injuries and should not be stricken.”

         To the extent it is opposed, Union's motion will be denied. In his prayer for relief, Smith requests compensation for, among other things, “[p]ast unnecessarily incurred pain and discomfort caused by Defendants [sic] delay and constructive denial for medical care[.]” In the Court's view, this prayer for relief shows Smith's intent, from the outset, to seek recovery for physical injuries suffered due to Union's conduct-specifically, pain and discomfort. Although his stated cause of action was for intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, he never stated that he did not wish to seek damages for the physical manifestations of his emotional injuries, and Union's assertions to the contrary are erroneous. As a result, this request will be denied. Union may, however, submit proposed jury instructions concerning damages that address its concerns, and the Court will entertain those submissions at the appropriate time. Nevertheless, at the present time, the Court will grant the motion to the extent it is unopposed and deny it in all other respects.

         Motion to exclude evidence concerning the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act not specifically pled in the complaint [172]:

         The Court now turns to Union's request that the Court exclude “any testimony or other evidence regarding the denial or delay in authorizing or paying any benefits in the underlying workers' compensation claim that have not been specifically pled in the [c]omplaint.” In the motion, Union contends that although this action has been narrowed to four specific alleged instances of delay, Smith will likely attempt to offer evidence concerning other delays in receiving benefits.

         In his reply, Smith states that “[t]o the extent [Union] seeks to exclude damages not pled, the Motion is conceded.” Accordingly, the motion will be granted, and Smith will not be permitted to introduce evidence concerning damages that were not pled.

         Motion to exclude evidence regarding forty-five day period for scheduling and completion of employer medical evaluations [174]:

         In its next motion, Union asks the Court to exclude any testimony or other evidence concerning a forty-five day requirement for scheduling or completing an employer medical evaluation (“EME”). Union contends that “[t]here is no such requirement contained in any statute, rule, fee schedule or other applicable authority that applies to the issues raised in [Smith's] complaint.” This motion stems from Smith's response to Union's motion for summary judgment, wherein Smith made reference to a forty-five day requirement for conducting an EME in the 2013 medical fee schedule. However, the parties agree that the 2007 fee schedule-not the 2013 schedule-is applicable to this action. Therefore, Union argues that any reference to the new requirement in the 2013 fee schedule is irrelevant and should be excluded.

         Smith states that he does not contest the motion. He does emphasize, however, that in referencing the 2013 fee schedule, he was simply responding to Union's motion for summary judgment and pointing out that the conduct at issue in this case has now been banned by the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission.

         The Court appreciates the point Smith made in his response to Union's summary judgment motion and recognizes that the 2013 fee schedule is not applicable in the case at hand. Consequently, it will grant the motion and exclude any references to the requirements of the 2013 fee schedule. ...

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