ORDER REGARDING MOTIONS
(ECF No. 217)
STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff C. Dwayne Gilmore is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds against Defendants Lockard, Lopez, and Hightower for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The claims arise out of events at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") on July 8, 2010, when Plaintiff was shot with a sponge round and pepper sprayed. All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF Nos. 8, 199.) A jury trial is set for February 28, 2017 at 8:15 a.m.
On January 17, 2017, Defendants filed motions
On February 13, 2017, the Court held a telephonic motions in limine hearing. Plaintiff appeared pro se, and Michelle L. Angus and Khaliah M. Burnley appeared on behalf of Defendants. Plaintiff stated at the hearing that he mailed a motion
"A motion in limine is a procedural mechanism to limit in advance testimony or evidence in a particular area."
Motions in limine that exclude broad categories of evidence are disfavored, and such issues are better dealt with during trial as the admissibility of evidence arises.
MOTIONS IN LIMINE
A. Defendants' Motions in Limine
Defendants seek to exclude: (1) evidence on the content of Plaintiff's medical records, unless he lays a proper foundation and explains the content through a qualified medical professional, and Plaintiff's opinions about the diagnosis, prognosis, or cause of his medical conditions or injuries; (2) evidence concerning sun exposure and delayed medical treatment; (3) evidence regarding the cause of death of Officer Torres, and that Officer Torres was a defendant in this case; (4) Plaintiff's schematics of KVSP; (5) photographs of Plaintiff; (6) a report concerning the temperature for Delano, California on July 8, 2010; (7) Plaintiff's 602 appeal package asserting a staff complaint against Defendants for the subject incident; (8) the first level response to Plaintiff's appeal regarding medical staff's alleged failure to provide Plaintiff a decontamination shower; (9) evidence relating to Plaintiff's swollen ankles; (10) a page from Plaintiff's complaint in an unrelated action; (11) Defendants' responses and objections to Plaintiff's statement of undisputed facts in support of motion for summary judgment; and (12) Defendants' discovery responses, except for impeachment following proper questioning.
Plaintiff's Medical Records and Plaintiff's Opinions About the Diagnosis, Prognosis, or Cause of his Medical Conditions and Alleged Injuries
Defendants note that both parties have identified Plaintiff's medical records as potential exhibits. Defendants have also identified a medical expert, Dr. Kumar. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 701, Defendants oppose the use of any medical records as exhibit unless they are authenticated and discussed by a medical expert, such as Dr. Kumar. Defendants specifically seek to exclude Plaintiff from using his medical records identified as Plaintiff's Exhibits 3, 4 and 6-12 on this basis, (ECF No. 217-1, pp. 52-56, 61-85), as well as because they constitute inadmissible hearsay. Defendants also seek to preclude Plaintiff from offering any opinions or inferences from any medical records, or from offering any testimony or argument concerning his medical diagnoses, conditions, or cause of his medical conditions or alleged injuries.
"If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is: (a) rationally based on the witness's perception; (b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702." Fed. R. Evid. 701.
As a non-expert witness, Plaintiff may testify as to what he saw or felt relating to his medical needs or condition, but may not testify as to any medical matter which requires scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge. Plaintiff also may not testify regarding his medical records. In sum, information regarding medical opinions and observations from medical records are hearsay, and may not be admitted without a testifying medical professional.
Evidence Concerning Sun Exposure and Delayed Medical Treatment
In Plaintiff's first amended complaint, he alleged that after he was pepper sprayed, he requested medical attention, feeling severe burning from the pepper spray. Officer Torres, a former defendant, allegedly forced Plaintiff to walk to the program office, and had him sit on hot asphalt outside that office for approximately 27 minutes. Plaintiff further alleged that he was then moved to the outside of medical services and was forced to sit on hot asphalt again while photographs were taken, after which he was decontaminated for about five minutes by Officer Torres.
On February 24, 2014, Defendants filed a notice of Officer Torres' death. (ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff filed several motions for substitution, (ECF Nos. 25, 28, 31, 43, 61, 89), each of which were denied, (ECF Nos. 26, 29, 32, 48, 63, 131). On July 8, 2015, the District Judge dismissed Officer Torres from the action, with prejudice, and also dismissed Plaintiff's claim for denial of adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 131.)
Defendants now seek to prohibit Plaintiff from introducing evidence at trial of the alleged events that occurred after he was pepper sprayed, including that he sat in the hot sun, that his body was blistered, and that he requested medical treatment. Defendants argue that this evidence should be excluded as irrelevant pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 402, because there are no longer any claims in the case concerning these matters. They further argue that the evidence should be excluded pursuant to Rule 403. Defendants argue that they would be forced to present rebuttal evidence about these allegations, which would confuse the jury and waste time on tangential issues.
Plaintiff argued in opposition that after he was pepper sprayed, he was taken outside while covered in pepper spray and the evidence concerning those events goes to his ongoing suffering.
Federal Rule of Evidence 402 provides that all relevant evidence is admissible and evidence that is not relevant is inadmissible. Rule 401 defines relevant evidence as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Rule 403 provides that relevant evidence may be excluded if it will cause prejudice, undue delay, a waste of time, or a needless presentation of cumulative evidence in the discretion of the Court.
Defendants argued that the decisions regarding escorting Plaintiff and decontaminating him were made by a deceased, former defendant—Officer Torres. The Court does not find that Officer Torres' death should preclude Plaintiff from offering relevant evidence here. As explained below, the Court will order that Plaintiff may not present evidence regarding Officer Torres' cause of death or that the claim against Officer Torres was dismissed. That ruling should limit any confusion of the issues or presentation of irrelevant evidence.
Evidence Regarding the Cause of Death of Officer Torres, and that Officer Torres Was a Defendant in this Case
Based on informal discussions between the parties, Defendants anticipate that Plaintiff intends to present evidence that Officer Torres' cause of death was suicide, which they argue is irrelevant, unduly prejudicial, would unnecessarily delay the trial, and that Plaintiff has no personal knowledge allowing him to offer any evidence of this matter. Fed. R. Evid. 401, 403.
Defendants also argue that Plaintiff should be precluded from offering evidence that Officer Torres was a named defendant in this action, and should be precluded from arguing that he was unable to pursue his claim against Officer Torres, as these issues are irrelevant legal matters. Fed. R. Evid. 401. Further, Defendants argue that the evidence or argument by Plaintiff that he was prevented from pursuing his claim against Officer Torres may garner unfair sympathy from jurors and result in undue prejudice. Fed. R. Evid. 403.
Plaintiff's Schematics of Kern Valley State Prison
Plaintiff has identified schematics of KVSP, Facility A, Building 8, C-section, as his Exhibit 2. (ECF No. 217-1, pp. 40-51.) Defendants object to Plaintiff's use of these schematics because it is not clear Plaintiff can authenticate them or otherwise lay a foundation for them.
Defendants further object to the handwritten notations on the schematic as hearsay, and because some of them are testimonial in nature. Some of these notations indicate various information, such as the location of people or things; distances and lengths between objects, people, and locations; and information about the facilities, such as the purpose of rooms or areas and the numbers of cells.
An inquiry into authenticity concerns the genuineness of an item of evidence, not its admissibility.
A handwritten document may be authenticated through testimony of a witness who has personal knowledge that the document is what the proffering party claims it to be, Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)(1);
Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Fed. R. Evid. 801(c). Unless hearsay is subject to a hearsay exception, it is not admissible. Fed. R. Evid. 802, 803.
Assuming the hearsay statements were to be removed from the schematics, the Court defers its ruling at this time as to whether the schematics may otherwise be admitted, depending on whether Plaintiff is able to properly authenticate and lay a foundation for each schematic he seeks to introduce into evidence at trial.
Photographs of Plaintiff
Plaintiff identified six photographs of himself, titled as "Photos of Plaintiff's Gunshot Wound and Plaintiff Covered in Pepper Spray," as Exhibit 5. (ECF No. 217-1, pp. 57-60.) Each photograph has handwritten notations describing what Plaintiff asserts is depicted in the photograph.
Defendants object to the introduction of the photographs on the grounds that Plaintiff cannot lay the foundation for the photographs, they are not properly authenticated, and because the handwritten notations are hearsay.
As to Defendants' authenticity objection, Defendants have not argued that these pictures are not of Plaintiff around the time of the events at issue, and the objection appears to be purely procedural. Courts generally view objections based on authentication skeptically in the absence of an indication that the document's authenticity is genuinely in dispute.
Assuming the hearsay statements were to be removed from the photographs, the Court defers its ruling at this time as to whether the photographs may otherwise be admitted, depending on whether Plaintiff is able to properly lay a foundation for each photograph he seeks to introduce at trial.
Report Concerning the Temperature for Delano, California on July 8, 2010
Plaintiff identified as Exhibit 13 a report titled, "Delano, California 7/8/2010 Daily Temperature Summary," provided by Weather Source, LLC. (ECF No. 217-1, pp. 86-96.) The ten-page report discusses temperatures, humidity, winds, and other weather conditions. It states that the weather data comes from the United States Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically the National Climate Data Center and the National Weather Service.
Defendants argue this exhibit should be excluded because it is irrelevant since this action does not involve the events that occurred outside of the dayroom on July 8, 2010. They further argue that this evidence would confuse the jury, waste time, constitutes hearsay, and lacks foundation.
The Court's determination regarding whether the presentation of evidence on these matters is too tangential or becomes a waste of time is deferred until trial. Defendants may re-raise an appropriate objection at that time.
The parties are also reminded that they may stipulate to facts regarding the weather, and may request that the Court take judicial notice of facts which are not reasonably disputed.
Plaintiff's 602 Appeal Package Asserting a Staff Complaint Against Defendants
Plaintiff has identified a 602 appeal package, log number KVSP-10-01442, regarding his staff complaint against Defendants for the subject incident, as Exhibit 18. (ECF No. 217-2, pp. 12-21.) Defendants seek to exclude this evidence because it contains multiple levels of inadmissible hearsay.
In the event the 602 is necessary for impeachment or other permissible purpose, Plaintiff may raise the issue at trial and the matter will be considered outside the presence of the jury.
The First Level Response to Plaintiff's Appeal Regarding Medical Staff's Alleged Failure to Provide Plaintiff a Decontamination Shower
Plaintiff has identified a first level response to his 602 appeal, log number KVSP-34-10-12593, regarding his allegation that he was not provided a decontamination shower after he was exposed to pepper spray, as Exhibit 20. (ECF No. 217-2, pp. 36-37.) Defendants seek to exclude this exhibit because it is irrelevant, confuses the issues, would result in a waste of time, and contains inadmissible hearsay.
Evidence Relating to Plaintiff's Swollen Ankles
Plaintiff has identified as Exhibits 21-24 evidence related to a September 11, 2008 incident concerning a swollen ankle, including a 602 appeal, letters to and from the Office of Internal Affairs, and letters from the warden of KVSP. (ECF No. 217-2, pp. 38-56.) The evidence concerns a grievance against Defendant Lockard and other prison officials by Plaintiff, that on September 11, 2008, Plaintiff complained of swollen ankles, but the prison officials denied him treatment and instead harassed Plaintiff.
Defendants object to this evidence as Plaintiff is not claiming any ankle injury from the July 8, 2010 incident at issue in this case, making the evidence irrelevant. Further, Defendants object that the evidence constitutes inadmissible hearsay, lacks authentication, and will result in an undue waste of time, mislead the jury, and confuse the issues.
Plaintiff argued that this evidence can be used to show Defendant Lockard's motive in this case. Specifically, Plaintiff asserted that this evidence shows that Defendant Lockard found "a loophole" to "do what he wants to do" against Plaintiff.
Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) makes evidence of other wrongs or acts inadmissible to provide "the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith," but may be admissible for other purposes, such as "proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident." Fed. R. Evid. 404(b);
Page From Plaintiff's Complaint in an Unrelated Action
Plaintiff identified as Exhibit 25 the first page of the complaint in an unrelated action,
Defendants argue that this evidence should be excluded because it is irrelevant and constitutes inadmissible hearsay. They further argue that allowing this evidence would require them to rebut it, resulting in an undue waste of time, misleading the jury, and confusion of the issues.
Defendants' Responses and Objections to Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiff has identified as Exhibit 26 the Defendants' Responses and Objections to Plaintiff's Separate Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 217-2, pp. 59-100, ECF Non. 217-3, pp. 1-18.) The document contains handwritten notations by Plaintiff commenting on the statements in the document.
Defendants move to exclude this evidence as inadmissible hearsay, irrelevant, and because its use would cause an undue waste of time, mislead the jury, and confuse the issues.
Defendants' Discovery Responses
Plaintiff has identified Defendants' discovery responses as Exhibits 27-31. (ECF No. 217-3, pp. 19-108.) Defendants object to the introduction of these responses as evidence on the grounds that it is overbroad, irrelevant, inadmissible hearsay, and would cause confusion to the jury and an undue waste of time. They assert that each discovery request and response would need to be reviewed for relevancy and admissibility, which would lead to undue delay and a needless presentation of cumulative evidence. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's use of the responses should be limited to impeachment, following proper questioning.
IT IS SO ORDERED.