United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
BOBBY WEST, COYA JACKSON, MICHAEL PERKINS and FILANDO MARION PLAINTIFFS
CITY OF HOLLY SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI, KELVIN O. BUCK, Mayor of the City of Holly Springs, and JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS
MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bobby West and Michael Perkins have each filed motions in
limine seeking to prohibit defendant from mentioning certain
acts of misconduct which they are alleged to have committed
while employed by the City of Holly Springs. The court,
having considered plaintiffs' motions and defendant's
responses, concludes that each of the motions should be
limited scope of the motion in limine procedural device is
A motion in limine is a motion made prior to trial for the
purpose of prohibiting opposing counsel from mentioning the
existence of, alluding to, or offering evidence on matters so
highly prejudicial to the moving party that a timely motion
to strike or an instruction by the court to the jury to
disregard the offending matter cannot overcome its
prejudicial influence on the jurors' minds.
O'Rear v. Fruehauf Corp., 554 F.2d 1304, 1306
n.1 (5th Cir. 1977). When ruling upon motions in limine,
evidence should not be excluded “unless it is clearly
inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Goode v.
City of Southaven, No. 3:17-CV-60, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
36828, at *2 (N.D. Miss. Mar. 7, 2019) (quotations omitted).
“Rulings on a motion in limine are not binding on the
trial judge, and the judge may always change his mind during
the course of a trial.” Id.
these standards in mind, this court first addresses
West's motion to exclude any argument that he
deliberately and intentionally wrecked his police vehicle in
January 2017. It is undisputed that West's vehicle was
damaged in an accident while he was driving it, but he
contends that it was simply a result of, inter alia,
icy conditions which prevailed at the time. [Plaintiff's
depo. at 33]. West accordingly argues that there is no
evidence to support a finding that he intentionally wrecked
his vehicle and that any suggestion that he did so is highly
prejudicial and should be barred under Fed.R.Evid. 401 and
403. [Brief at 2]. For its part, defendant openly
acknowledges that it suspects plaintiff of having
deliberately wrecked his vehicle, given the timing of the
accident. In particular, defendant notes that the accident
happened while West was returning his patrol car on his last
day with the detective division, after he had been
transferred out of that division. [Defendant's brief at
2]. Defendant contends that, given this timing, it regards
the incident as an intentional act made out of anger and
spite. In the court's view, the crucial factor is that
this is an FLSA retaliation claim, in which defendant's
subjective motivation for firing plaintiff is the key
disputed fact issue. That being the case, any evidence
regarding the reasons which led defendant to terminate
plaintiff is very much relevant. Accordingly, even if the
evidence suggests that defendant fired plaintiff based on a
genuine, yet mistaken, belief that he had intentionally
wrecked his vehicle, then that would still tend to constitute
a defense to any FLSA retaliation claim.
court's view, a jury is entirely capable of considering
the evidence relating to the accident and determining whether
defendant had a genuine suspicion that West had deliberately
wrecked his vehicle. If West is correct that there is no good
reason to have suspected that he deliberately wrecked his
vehicle, then the jury may well react negatively to any
suggestion by defendant that he did so. This thus strikes
this court as being an issue which could potentially cut both
ways with a jury, depending upon how the facts develop at
trial. At any rate, this court concludes that a jury should
be allowed to consider the evidence in this context, and
plaintiff's motion in limine will therefore be denied.
similar analysis applies to plaintiff Michael Perkins'
motion to exclude, pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 403, any evidence
of past disciplinary actions taken against him during his
eighteen-year career as a Holly Springs police officer.
Perkins asserts that most of the prior infractions in his
personnel file were either minor and/or occurred many years
ago, and he argues that they should be excluded under Rule
403. As with West's motion in limine, however, this court
concludes that any evidence which might shed light on the
reasons for the adverse employment actions sustained by
Perkins is very much relevant in this case, and this includes
his history of prior infractions. Rule 403 provides that the
Court “may exclude relevant evidence if its probative
value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more
of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues,
misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly
presenting cumulative evidence.” However, simply
because the testimony is adverse to the opposing party
testimony does not mean it is unfairly prejudicial.
Brazos River Auth. v. GE Ionics, Inc., 469 F.3d 416, 427
(5th Cir. 2006). “There must be a danger of unfair
prejudice, not merely the danger of prejudice inherent in any
relevant evidence; and its probative value must be
substantially outweighed by that danger.” Moore v.
Ashland Chem., 126 F.3d 679, 692 (5th Cir. 1997).
West's claim, the crucial disputed fact issue with regard
to Perkins' retaliation claim is defendant's motive
in suspending him and removing him from the street crimes
unit. In the court's view, defendant has a legitimate
argument that it chose to punish Perkins more harshly because
of his prior history of infractions, and, that being the
case, any evidence of such infractions is relevant evidence
in this case. While this evidence may tend to place plaintiff
in a bad light, this court does not ...