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Rogers v. Medline Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

January 31, 2019

RICHARD K. ROGERS PLAINTIFF
v.
MEDLINE INDUSTRIES, INC., AND JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS

         ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION [97] IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE OPINION TESTIMONY FROM MPLOYEES AND FORMER EMPLOYEES WHO DID NOT MANAGE PLAINTIFF RICHARD K. ROGERS AT THE TIME OF HIS TERMINATION; GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION [99] IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF UNRELATED ALLEGATIONS OF ALLEGED INTERACTION BETWEEN A MANAGER AND FEMALE MEDLINE EMPLOYEE; GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION [101] IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE REFERENCE SUGGESTING PLAINTIFF FACES A “DAVID AND GOLIATH” SITUATION; AND DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE DEFENDANT'S MOTION [103] IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE BROAD ALLEGATIONS OF AGE DISCRIMINATION BY MEDLINE AND EVIDENCE OF OTHER CLAIMS OR LITIGATION AGAINST MEDLINE

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are four Motions [97] [99] [101] [103] in Limine filed by Defendant Medline Industries, Inc. Upon review of the record, and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds as follows: (1) Defendant Medline Industries, Inc.'s Motion [97] in Limine to Exclude Opinion Testimony from Employees and Former Employees Who Did Not Manage Plaintiff Richard K. Rogers at the Time of his Termination should be granted in part denied in part; (2) Medline Industries, Inc.'s Motion [99] in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Unrelated Allegations of Alleged Interaction between a Manager and Female Medline Employee should be granted; (3) Medline Industries, Inc.'s Motion [101] in Limine to Exclude Reference Suggesting Plaintiff Faces a “David and Goliath” Situation should be granted; and (4) Medline Industries, Inc.'s Motion [103] in Limine to Exclude Broad Allegations of Age Discrimination by Medline and Evidence of Other Claims or Litigation against Medline should be denied without prejudice, with leave to reassert objections to specific questions at trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an employment discrimination case arising out of Plaintiff Richard K. Rogers' (“Rogers” or “Plaintiff”) employment with Defendant Medline Industries, Inc. (“Medline” or “Defendant”). Medline employed Rogers as a salesperson from 2002 until he was terminated in 2016. Compl. [1] at 2. On or about January 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination [1-1] with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that Medline discriminated against him on the basis of his age when it terminated him. On January 30, 2018, the EEOC provided Rogers with a Notice of Right to Sue [1-2], and Rogers timely filed suit against Medline Industries, Inc. and John Does 1-10. Compl. [1] at 1. Rogers brought the present action alleging that Medline unlawfully terminated him because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623. Id. at 4.

         Medline filed five Motions [97] [99] [101] [103] [105] in Limine in advance of trial: (1) a Motion [97] in Limine to Exclude Opinion Testimony from Employees and Former Employees Who Did Not Manage Rogers at the Time of his Termination; (2) a Motion [99] in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Unrelated Allegations of Alleged Interaction between a Manager and Female Medline Employee; (3) a Motion [101] in Limine to Exclude Reference Suggesting Plaintiff Faces a “David and Goliath” Situation; (4) a Motion [103] in Limine to Exclude Broad Allegations of Age Discrimination by Medline and Evidence of Other Claims or Litigation against Medline; and (5) a Motion [105] in Limine to Exclude Insurance. Rogers responded to each Motion. Pl.'s Resps. [108] [110] [114] [112] [107].

         The Court previously granted as unopposed Medline's Motion [105] in Limine to Exclude Insurance, and prohibited Rogers from testifying about, or introducing any facts and/or other evidence of, or making any reference to, insurance coverage of Medline. Text Only Order, Jan. 23, 2019. The Court will address the remaining four Motions [97] [99] [101] [103] in turn.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Medline's Motion [97] in Limine to Exclude Opinion Testimony from Employees and Former Employees Who Did Not Manage Rogers at the Time of his Termination should be granted in part and denied in part.

         Medline seeks to exclude: (1) opinion testimony regarding Rogers' past performance; and (2) any testimony that speculates why Medline terminated Rogers. First, Medline asserts that the Court should prohibit Rogers from offering his own opinion testimony, or that of current or former Medline employees who did not supervise him at the time of his termination, regarding his job performance. Def.'s Mot. [97]. Medline argues that this testimony is inadmissible because it is irrelevant. Rogers responds that his own testimony and the testimony of his former supervisors from Medline is relevant because it establishes that he was qualified for the position and that Medline's reasons for his termination were pretextual. Pl.'s Resp. [108]; Pl.'s Resp. Mem. [109].

         In support of its Motion [97], Medline cites a Northern District of Mississippi case in which the opinion testimony of a plaintiff's co-workers was excluded.[1]Def.'s Mem. in Support [98]. In Harkness v. Bauhaus U.S.A., Inc., the defendant claimed that it terminated plaintiff for “a series of write-ups related to specific incidents and for [his] response to those write-ups.” 2015 WL 631512, at *5 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2015). The court reasoned that because the co-workers' opinions regarding his “performance and attitude [had] no bearing on whether [the plaintiff] committed the specific infractions underlying” the defendant's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the plaintiff's termination, their exclusion was appropriate under the circumstances of the case. Id.

         Here, unlike the employer's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the plaintiff's termination in Harkness, Medline claims that it terminated Rogers because of a failure to meet the benchmarks in a corrective action plan implemented by Rogers' supervisors after he consistently did not meet sales goals and Medline received customer complaints. Def.'s Mem. in Support of Summ. J. [56] at 17-18; see id.; Briggs Dep. [55-5]; Gallarelli Dep. [55-4]. Medline has previously cited evidence of Rogers' negative work performance while he was managed by his former supervisors, Trey Smith and Mark Taylor. See Def.'s Mem. in Support of Summ. J. [56] (citing Gallarelli's and Briggs' review of Rogers' performance and sales numbers the year prior to Gallarelli's and Briggs' management of Rogers). In short, Medline has placed Rogers' performance over a period of time at issue in this case.

         Rogers states that he now wishes to introduce evidence of his past performance to prove that he was qualified for the position and that Medline's reasons for termination are false and therefore pretextual. Pl.'s Resp. Mem. [109] at 1-3. Because evidence of positive performance is relevant for these purposes, and because the Court cannot say that its probative value is outweighed by any substantial danger of undue prejudice, the Court will deny this portion of Medline's Motion [99]. See Fed. R. Evid. 401-03; Normand v. Research Inst. Of Am., Inc., 927 F.2d 857, 859-60, 864-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (considering evidence of service prior to employee's constructive discharge for poor sales performance and reversing the district court's judgment notwithstanding the verdict and reinstating the jury's verdict).

         Second, Medline argues that speculation from Smith and Taylor, or any other former or current Medline employee, as to why Medline terminated Rogers constitutes inadmissible hearsay. Def.'s Mem. in Support [98] at 3; Fed.R.Evid. 401-02, 801-02. Rogers does not address this portion of Medline's Motion [97] and does not indicate whether he intends to offer any such testimony. See Pl.'s Resp. Mem. [109]. The Court agrees that this kind of testimony from current or former Medline employees who were not involved in Rogers' termination would amount to speculation and is therefore not relevant and would not be helpful to the jury. See Fed.R.Evid. 401-02, 801-02. To the extent Rogers seeks to introduce testimony from ...


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