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Daniels v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 11, 2014

LASHAN DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

Page 63

For LASHAN DANIELS, Individually and as the next best friend of M.C., a minor, Plaintiff: Gregory L. Lattimer, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF GREGORY L. LATTIMER, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, NAPPER, Ofc., #4516 ; Individual and Official Capacity, H. SALICE, Ofc., #4496 ; Individual and Official Capacity, ALVARENGA, Ofc., #4503 ; Individual and Official Capacity, Defendants: Joseph Alphonso Gonzalez, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC; Steven J. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR DC, Washington, DC; Amir Farhangi, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Civil Litigation Division, Washington, DC.

OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff in this tort action, LaShan Daniels, alleges that the defendants, the District of Columbia and several named police officers (collectively, " the defendants" ), falsely arrested her and caused other damages, including violating her constitutional rights, during an incident at her home. See Compl., generally, ECF No. 1-1.[1] The case is scheduled for trial beginning February 18, 2014. See Pretrial Order, ECF No. 28. The defendants, based upon the plaintiff's proposed witness list provided in the Joint Pretrial Statement (" JPS" ), at 5-8, ECF No. 32, seek, through a motion in limine, to preclude the plaintiff from (1) eliciting testimony from any witnesses regarding the plaintiff's hospitalization immediately after her arrest; (2) calling to testify the four physicians who treated the plaintiff during the aforementioned hospitalization; and (3) introducing any documentary evidence pertaining to the plaintiff's hospital stay. See Defs.' Mot. Limine (" Defs.' Mot." ) at 1, ECF No. 34; Defs.' Reply Pl.'s Opp'n Defs.' Mot. (" Defs.' Reply" ) at 8, ECF No. 38. For the reasons discussed below, the defendants' motion in limine is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this matter have been summarized previously and need not be repeated in detail here. See Daniels v. District of Columbia, 894 F.Supp.2d 61, 64-65 (D.D.C. 2012).[2] Nevertheless, a brief discussion

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of the pertinent facts and procedural history is helpful to provide the context for resolution of the pending motion. The plaintiff had, at all times relevant to this matter, a " high risk" pregnancy. Compl. ¶ 10; see also Pl.'s Opp'n Defs.' Mot. (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ) at 3, ECF No. 37. Prior to the incident at issue here, the plaintiff had to visit a prenatal doctor " maybe like once a week, because the pregnancy was high risk." Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 (Deposition of LaShan Daniels (" Defs.' Daniels Dep." )) at 36:17-19, ECF No. 34-1.[3] The plaintiff admits that prior to the incident she had to receive " an injection once a week" and have medical personnel come to her house to listen to her fetus' heart rate because the plaintiff's " cervix had started dilating when [the plaintiff] was maybe like 13 weeks." Id. 37:13-22. The plaintiff also admits that she had two previous high-risk pregnancies, including one child who was born after thirty two weeks, see id. at 38:5-11; see also Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2 (Excerpt from Plaintiff's Medical Records) at 4, ECF No. 34-2, prompting the plaintiff's doctor to be " really angry with [the plaintiff] because [she] was taking a risk having the baby," Defs.' Daniels Dep. at 38:13-14. The plaintiff's medical records further indicate other health concerns that could have contributed to her high risk pregnancy. See Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2 at 3-4.

Following an encounter between the plaintiff, her minor son, a neighbor, and the defendants on May 18, 2010, the plaintiff was arrested and transported to the Seventh District police precinct station. See Daniels, 894 F.Supp.2d at 65; Compl. ¶ ¶ 8-11. Although the defendants offered to take the plaintiff to a hospital for medical treatment during the trip to the station, the plaintiff declined. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6. Following her release from custody " after several hours," Compl. ¶ 11, the plaintiff sought medical treatment at Washington Hospital Center and was given instructions to follow up with her obstetrician the next day. Pl.'s Opp'n at 7. On May 19, 2010, the day after her arrest, the plaintiff was seen by " Dr. Igbuard," [4] whom the plaintiff identifies as her " High Risk Doctor." Id. Dr. Igbuard told the plaintiff that her fetus was " in stress." Id. ; see also Compl. ¶ 11. The plaintiff was subsequently admitted to the hospital for the next four days to stabilize her pregnancy. Compl. ¶ 11.

The plaintiff alleges that after she was released from the hospital, she was on " strict bed rest and advised to make a follow up visit with [her] OB/GYN doctors in one week and with [her] high risk doctors also within one week." Pl.'s Opp'n at 8; see also Compl. ¶ 11. The plaintiff further alleges that " [t]hroughout this ordeal [she] was scared, [frightened], stressed, anxious and suffered from sleepless nights. [She] constantly worried about the health of [her] child, as well as [her] health and the well being of [her] other children." Pl.'s Opp'n at 8.

The plaintiff has identified in the parties' JPS four doctors, Dr. Iqbal Sara, Dr. Melissa Howard Fries, Dr. Michelle Berkley and Dr. Lorraine Gilliam (collectively, the " Medical Witnesses" ), as potential witnesses. Absent from the list are the plaintiff's

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primary care physician, Dr. Lizy Thomas, and the plaintiff's " High Risk Doctor," Dr. Igbuard. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 7-8; see also supra note 4. The plaintiff has not submitted any expert reports pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. See Pl.'s Opp'n. at 9-10

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Supreme Court has recognized that " [a]lthough the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984); see id. at 40 n.2 (defining motion in limine " in a broad sense to refer to any motion, whether made before or during trial, to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually offered" ). Indeed, Rule 103(d) of the Federal Rules of Evidence mandates that the court must conduct a jury trial to the extent practicable so that inadmissible evidence is not suggested to the jury by any means. Fed.R.Evid. 103(d). Pretrial motions in limine are an important mechanism to effectuate this goal of insulating the jury from inadmissible evidence and further the purpose of the rules, generally, to administer the proceedings " fairly . . . to the end of ascertaining the truth and securing a just determination." Fed.R.Evid. 102; see Banks v. Vilsack, No. 07-1807, 958 F.Supp.2d 78, at *7-8 (D.D.C. July 31, 2013) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(d), court determined that plaintiff's motion to exclude certain evidence would be decided pretrial " [i]n the interest of conducting an efficient jury trial and preventing the jury from hearing inadmissible evidence" ); Brodit v. Cambra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (9th Cir. 2003) (noting that motions in limine " allow parties to resolve evidentiary disputes ahead of trial, without first having to present potentially prejudicial evidence in front of a jury" ); 21 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & KENNETH W. GRAHAM, JR, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: EVIDENCE § 5042, at 965 (2d ed. 2005) (noting that " the motion in limine . . . still remains a favorite method of the writers for satisfying Rule 103(c)" ). Moreover, " [a] pretrial ruling, if possible, may generally be the better practice, for it permits counsel to make the necessary strategic determinations." United States v. Jackson, 627 F.2d 1198, 1209, 201 U.S. App. D.C. 212 (D.C. Cir. 1980).

In evaluating the admissibility of proffered evidence on a pretrial motion in limine the court must assess whether the evidence is relevant and, if so, whether it is admissible, pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 402. " [T]he burden is on the introducing party to establish relevancy," Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 351 n.3, 110 S.Ct. 668, 107 L.Ed.2d 708 (1990), as well as admissibility. Even relevant evidence may be deemed inadmissible and subject to exclusion on multiple grounds, including that " 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." Fed.R.Evid. 403. " Assessing the probative value of [the proffered evidence] and weighing any factors counseling against admissibility is a matter first for the district court's sound judgment under Rules 401 and 403." Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384, 128 S.Ct. 1140, 170 L.Ed.2d 1 (2008) (quoting United States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45, 54, 105 S.Ct. 465, 83 L.Ed.2d 450 (1984)). " This is particularly true with respect to Rule 403." Id.

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Under Rule 403, the court must " engage in on-the-spot balancing of probative value and prejudice and . . . exclude even factually relevant evidence when it fails the balancing test." United States v. Moore, 651 F.3d 30, 63, 397 U.S. App. D.C. 148 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). This balancing test is " fact-based and depends on many factors, including how closely related the evidence is to the plaintiff's circumstances and theory of the case." Nuskey v. Hochberg, 723 F.Supp.2d 229, 233 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Sprint/United Mgmt. Co., 552 U.S. at 387-88). Importantly, " unfair prejudice within [the Rule 403] context means an undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one." United States v. Ring, 706 F.3d 460, 472, 403 U.S. App. D.C. 410 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 403 advisory committee's notes). Exclusion based on unfair prejudice is particularly important in the case of expert evidence, which " can be both powerful and quite misleading because of the difficulty in evaluating it." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579, 595, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993) (quoting Jack B. Weinstein, Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence Is Sound; It Should Not Be Amended, 138 F.R.D. 631, 632 (1991)); Parsi v. Daioleslam, 852 F.Supp.2d 82, 86 (D.D.C. 2012) (observing that " because '[e]xpert evidence can be both powerful and quite misleading,' a court has greater leeway in excluding expert testimony under Rule 403 than it does lay witness testimony." ) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595).

Depending upon the nature of the evidentiary issue presented in a pretrial motion in limine, the court must also assess whether a ruling is appropriate in advance of trial or, instead, should be deferred until trial " '[when] decisions can be better informed by the context, foundation, and relevance of the contested evidence within the framework of the trial as a whole.'" Herbert v. Architect of the Capitol, 920 F.Supp.2d 33, 38 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Casares v. Bernal, 790 F.Supp.2d 769, 775 (N.D.Ill. 2011)) (alteration in original). The timing of a decision on the admissibility of contested evidence is a matter within a trial judge's discretion. Banks, 958 F.Supp.2d 78, at *6; Barnes v. District of Columbia, 924 F.Supp.2d 74, 78-79 (D.D.C. 2013) (" The trial judge's discretion extends not only to the substantive evidentiary ruling, but also to the ...


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