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Hammond v. Em Specialists, P.A.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 2, 2015

MAURA HAMMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
EM SPECIALISTS, PA, a Kansas Professional Corporation, SHARON L. MATURO, M.D., and CARRIE A. GROUNDS, M.D., Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

K. GARY SEBELIUS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the court upon Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (ECF No. 78), Defendant EM Specialists P.A.'s Motions in Limine (ECF No. 74), and Defendants Sharon L. Maturo, M.D., and Carrie A. Grounds, M.D.'s Motions in Limine (ECF No. 77). On July 1, 2015, the parties submitted a written statement to the court regarding their efforts to resolve the motions in limine, which included the withdrawal of several motions, as noted below. The court addresses each of the motions below.

Motions in limine "aid the trial process by enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial."[1] However, the court is often better situated during trial to determine the value and utility of evidence, and therefore, "some courts defer making in limine rulings unless the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds."[2]

"Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial."[3] Additionally, a ruling in limine does not "relieve a party from the responsibility of making objections, raising motions to strike or making formal offers of proof during the course of trial."[4] At trial, the court may alter its limine ruling based on developments at trial or on its sound judicial discretion.[5]

A. Ms. Hammond's Motion in Limine (ECF No. 78)

1. References to the size and clients of the law firm representing Ms. Hammond

Ms. Hammond asks the court to exclude any comments from defense counsel-either directly or indirectly-regarding the size of Ms. Hammond's counsel's law firm, the firm's past or present clients, or any other irrelevant attributes of Ms. Hammond's counsel's firm. Defendants do not object to this request. Therefore, Ms. Hammond's motion is granted, and the court excludes any comments from defense counsel-either directly or indirectly-regarding the size of Ms. Hammond's counsel's law firm, the firm's past or present clients, or any other irrelevant attributes of Ms. Hammond's counsel's firm.

2. Counsel's references to death or illness of family members or personal conclusions regarding the care or treatment of such family members

Ms. Hammond asks the court to exclude statements by defense counsel of their own personal losses of loved ones. Ms. Hammond argues that pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 403, the danger of unfair prejudice outweighs any potentially relevance. EFM Specialists does not object to this request. Drs. Maturo and Grounds state they generally agree with the request but believe that it is drafted so vaguely as to include both permissible and impermissible arguments. Drs. Maturo and Grounds, however, do not specify what relevant evidence or arguments could be encompassed by the request to exclude. It does not appear to the court that counsel's statements concerning the deaths or illnesses of counsel's own family members or the care and treatment of counsel's family members would be relevant to any issues in this case. Therefore, the court grants Ms. Hammonds' request that these statements be excluded.

3. Opinion testimony by defendants

Ms. Hammond has informed the court that she withdraws this motion.

4. Defendants' cumulative expert witness testimony

Ms. Hammond has informed the court that she withdraws this motion.

5. Suggestions of tort reform or a tort crisis or that this case affects Kansas physicians

Ms. Hammond asks that the court exclude statements regarding the effect of this trial on Kansas physicians, any indication that this trial could affect the medical community or jurors' access to healthcare, or any comments regarding a tort crisis. EM Specialists does not object to this request, but Drs. Maturo and Grounds argue that the request is drafted so vaguely that, if granted, would prohibit both permissible and impermissible statements. Specifically, Drs. Maturo and Grounds seek to ask potential jurors about their knowledge of the "medical malpractice crisis" during voir dire. The court recognizes that some questions regarding prospective jurors' views on tort reform would be appropriate to determine whether they have opinions that would affect their ability to be unbiased. However, inflammatory words or phrases such as "medical malpractice crisis" or suggestions that this case would have far-reaching impacts on the health care system or jurors' access to health care are irrelevant and prejudicial to Ms. Hammond and should be excluded. Ms. Hammond's request to exclude these statements is granted insofar as the court directs counsel not to use inflammatory language when asking jurors during voir dire about their views on personal-injury suits, tort reform, or similar topics. During trial, all parties shall refrain from discussing the effect of this trial on Kansas physicians, any indication that this trial could affect the medical community or jurors' access to healthcare, or any comments regarding a tort crisis. Ms. Hammond's request to exclude is granted in part.

6. Testimony regarding whether Ms. Hammond sought timely medical treatment following her discharge that is not adequately supported by competent evidence

Ms. Hammond seeks an order excluding any statements suggesting she failed to seek timely treatment following her discharge at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. She argues defendants have failed to present competent evidence showing the alleged failure to seek care and treatment caused or contributed to her injuries. Defendants oppose this request-essentially arguing that they have competent evidence to support this theory. Because the court cannot resolve this issue on the present record, Ms. Hammond's request to exclude these statements is denied without prejudice. She may make a renewed motion at trial.

7. Character evidence

Ms. Hammond seeks an order excluding character evidence of any party in this case. As an example, she states that defendants should not be allowed to present evidence or testimony regarding their medical reputations or activities in the community because these subjects have no bearing on the relevant issues in the case. Defendants do not oppose ...


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