Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stokes v. Captain D'S, LLC

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

April 4, 2018

LARRY J. STOKES PLAINTIFF
v.
CAPTAIN D'S, LLC STORE MASTER FUNDING I, LLC, and SHN PROPERTIES, LLC DEFENDANTS

          ORDER ON PRETRIAL MOTIONS

          SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         In anticipation of the trial to be held on April 30, 2018, the Defendants filed a timely Motion in Limine [99] requesting that the Court exclude certain evidence and information from presentation at trial. The Plaintiff additionally filed five out-of-time motions related to trial evidence and discovery. See Plaintiff's Motions [101, 109, 110, 111, 112].[1]

         Preliminary Issues

         The Plaintiff in this case slipped and fell while dining at a Captain D's restaurant in Columbus, Mississippi. The Plaintiff now seeks damages, including punitive damages, for the injuries he sustained. The Defendants admit liability for the Plaintiff's fall, but dispute the amount of the Plaintiff's claimed damages.

         Given the posture of this case, well-established statutory and judicial precedents require the Court to bifurcate the issues of liability and compensatory damages, and punitive damages. See Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-65; Bradfield v. Schwartz, 936 So.2d 931, 938-39 (Miss. 2006); Robinson v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., No. 4:11-CV-103-MPM-JMV, 2013 WL 12187498, at *5 (N.D. Miss. Jan. 15, 2013). The Court will commence the trial of this case by informing the jury that the Defendants have admitted liability for the Plaintiff's fall and move immediately into the damages phase. If a Plaintiff's verdict is returned and compensatory damages are awarded, the Court will commence the punitive damages phase. See id.; see also Order [97].

         The Court reminds the parties that the procedure outlined in § 11-1-65 will be “meticulously followed” to prevent the jury from confusing “the basic issue of fault or liability and compensatory damages with the contingent issue of wanton and reckless conduct which may or may not ultimately justify an award of punitive damages.” See id.

         The Court recognizes that the Plaintiff's numerous creatively styled pre-trial motions are transparent attempts to blur the evidentiary boundary between liability, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. The Court will strictly adhere to its mandated gatekeeper role to insulate the jury from prejudice. Within this context, the Court will consider the various preliminary evidentiary issues presented by the parties below.

         Defendants' Motion in Limine [99]

         The Defendants' Motion in Limine [99] contains three requests. First the Defendants request that the Court exclude any mention by the Plaintiff of the case Foradori v. Harris, 523 F.3d 477 (5th Cir. 2008) at trial. Second, the Defendants request that the Court exclude certain documents and deposition testimony provided to the Plaintiff by the Defendants' medical expert David Gandy. Third and finally, the Defendants request that the Court exclude certain opinions in the deposition testimony of the Plaintiff's medical expert Russell Linton.

         “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. Evidence should not be excluded in limine unless it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Harkness v. Bauhaus U.S.A., Inc., No. 3:13-CV-129, 2015 WL 631512, at *1 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2015) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Foradori v. Harris, involved a fight between an off-duty employee and a customer at a Captain D's restaurant in Tupelo, Mississippi. After a jury trial, the District Court entered a verdict in the customer plaintiff's favor finding that the restaurant operator's negligent failures to regulate, train, supervise, and control its off-duty employees on its premises were proximate causes of customer's injuries. Ultimately, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury and trial court's findings, including a substantial damages award.

         Based on the record, including deposition excerpts provided by the parties, it is likely that the Plaintiff intends to reference the facts, circumstances, and outcome of Foradori at trial. The Plaintiff has not provided any basis for doing so, and it appears that the Plaintiff's primary motivation for mentioning Foradori would be to alert the jury to the significant monetary award in that case. For the reasons explained above, the Court will not admit this type of evidence, particularly during the compensatory damages phase. To the extent that certain corporate manuals and documents used in the Foradori trial also may be relevant in this case, the Court will reserve judgment on those specific items until they can be considered within the context of this trial, if and when an appropriate foundation is laid. The Court cautions the Plaintiff not to mention the Foradori case by name, or to mention the damages awarded in that case, in the jury's presence absent an explicit ruling otherwise.

         Next, the Defendants request that this Court exclude portions of their medical expert's video deposition that refer to documents and evidence subject to a protective order previously entered by this Court. See Order [90]. The Plaintiff has not provided any argument for overturning the protective order. The Plaintiff also fails to point to a single specific document or testimony, and any related basis of relevancy for the same that should be admitted.

         The Plaintiff does argue, without citing to specific portions of the deposition, that certain statements by Gandy demonstrate bias and prejudice because he is one of the Defendants Counsel's “best customers”. Given the complete lack of relevant argument raised by the Plaintiff, the protective order previously entered will remain in place. Depending on the case and testimony ultimately presented at trial, the Court may consider specific, relevant argument about Gandy's potential bias first offered outside the jury's presence.

         Finally, the Defendants request that the Court exclude two portions of testimony provided by the Plaintiff's expert Russell Linton because they are not expressed within a reasonable degree of medical probability, but are instead expressed merely in terms of possibility. The portions of testimony the Defendants want excluded appear on pages 47-48 and 55-56 of Linton's deposition.

         As the Fifth Circuit has expressed, under Mississippi law, expert testimony regarding medical causation is not probative unless it is stated in terms of probabilities, not possibilities. Overpeck v. Roger's Supermarket, LLC, No. 1:12-CV-124-SA-DAS, 2014 WL 12539658, at *3 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 10, 2014) (citing Spaulding v. United States, 241 F. App'x. 187, 190 (5th Cir. 2007).

         In pages 47-48 of his deposition, Linton discusses an apparently unrelated hypothetical injury. It is unclear how, if at all, this hypothetical injury could be relevant to the instant case. The Plaintiff provides no argument on the relevancy or reliability of these specific statements.[2] Because Linton's discussion of a hypothetical injury does not conform to the probability standard articulated above, and because the Plaintiff has not brought forth any other grounds for relevancy, the Defendant's request to exclude this portion of Linton's deposition is granted.

         The second section of Linton's testimony at issue, on pages 55-56 (line 18) is another hypothetical discussion related to latency of symptoms from a hypothetical injury. In this section, Linton begins his testimony: “You know, that's a question that is truly very hard to answer. Okay. Could you make a little nick in it and then it extends? That is possible. Most people . . .”. Again, because Linton's discussion of a hypothetical injury does not conform to the probability standard articulated above, and because the Plaintiff has not brought forth any other grounds for relevancy, the Defendant's request to exclude this portion of Linton's deposition is granted.

         For all of the reasons, and within the bounds explained above, the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.