COFFEY, Circuit Judge.
The plaintiffs filed claims on behalf of their minor daughter, Jane Doe, against Tag, a foster care agency, and Robin and David Swaziek, Doe's former foster parents. Their complaint charged that her former foster parents inflicted intentional emotional distress when they abused Doe both sexually and physically and that Tag, the agency responsible for Doe's placement, and its employees were grossly negligence with respect to their supervision of her placement. The plaintiffs sought to recover the expenses of psychological treatment Doe received as a result of the alleged abuse.
This suit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois in conjunction with the plaintiffs' federal claims against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). DCFS was charged with violating the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, violating Doe's civil rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and with violating the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 301 et seq. The district court dismissed the federal claims against DCFS but retained supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state common law claims against the agency and foster parents. 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The parties and the court agreed that Illinois substantive law applied to the remaining claims. After a jury trial, the defendants prevailed and Doe appeals. We AFFIRM.
In January, 1983, Jane Doe, a three-year old infant, was removed from her parents' custody because of her mother's severe mental problems, her father's alcoholism, and their overall neglect of the infant Doe. After a court hearing, the Illinois DCFS was granted legal custody of Doe and it assigned her case to the private agency Tag, now known as Child Serv,
Shortly after Doe began living with the Swazieks, she underwent a complete physical examination in which the doctor detected no abnormalities in her health. At the same time, it was reported that Doe displayed difficulty interacting with her foster father, David Swaziek, and acted extremely fearful of her natural father
In July, 1983, another Tag case worker, Susan Clement, took over supervision of Doe's case. In 1984, after Doe's annual physical, the Swazieks told Clement that Doe's examination revealed that she was small for her age. Clement made arrangements for Doe to see a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Ira Rosenthal. After more than a year of observation and testing, beginning in May, 1984 and continuing through July, 1985, Dr. Rosenthal determined that Doe's lack of proper growth was probably caused from maternal deprivation syndrome, a condition in which the child is deprived of maternal nurturing by his or her biological mother. Dr. Rosenthal based his medical opinion on his observations during the visits he had with Doe as well as the numerous tests he performed to rule out other medical problems that might be contributing to Doe's short stature.
In April, 1985, after a court hearing, Doe's biological parents' rights were terminated and she was freed for adoption. Dr. Bourginon evaluated Doe again, this time to determine if the Swazieks would be suitable parents for Doe and be able to provide a stable home for her. Although he determined that the Swazieks and Doe should begin family therapy, in order that Doe might continue to improve her relationship with her foster father, he felt that it would be appropriate for the Swazieks to adopt Doe. After several therapy sessions, Mary Karczewski, a family therapist, determined that the best home for Doe would be one in which she was either the only child or the youngest child. Because the Swazieks wanted to have more children of their own, they decided against adopting Doe.
In June, 1986, Clement met with another couple, Michael and Gayle Stosek, and advised them that Doe was a possible candidate for adoption. Clement also advised the Stoseks that Doe was small for her age, somewhat disruptive, did not have much of an appetite, and was having difficulty getting along with her foster father. Eight days later, when Doe moved into the Stoseks' home, she was six years of age, and according to the Stoseks, weighed only 30 pounds and looked like she was only two or three years of age. Within Doe's first three months with the Stoseks, she began to develop rapidly and gained twenty pounds.
Shortly thereafter, while living with the Stoseks, Doe began making allegations of physical, sexual, and satanic ritual abuse against the Swazieks. She also exhibited behavioral problems that included throwing temper tantrums, lying if she was caught misbehaving, massaging her breasts, attempting to touch her adopted brothers between their legs, touching herself between her legs, threatening to kill the Stoseks if she saw a certain type of knife, and claiming that she had three personalities. The Stoseks arranged for Doe to see Linda Alford, a psychotherapist,
Prior to trial, the defendants filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude this testimony, arguing that it had no probative value because James C. had a history of abuse and neglect at the hands of his biological parents, suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and lived in five other foster homes that predated his placement with the Swazieks. In light of all these factors, the court agreed that the evidence had limited probative value, might be unduly prejudicial, and ruled that Dr. Kraut's testimony about James C. would be admitted solely for the purpose of evaluating Doe's credibility with respect to her allegations against the Swazieks. As a result, although Dr. Kraut was allowed to testify about his diagnosis concerning James C. on direct examination, during re-direct examination, the court barred any testimony from Dr. Kraut concerning James' progress after he moved out of the Swaziek home. Furthermore, the judge reminded the jury that Dr. Kraut was the plaintiffs' expert witness and that his testimony was being heard for the sole purpose of evaluating Doe's credibility.
The plaintiffs proffered the expert testimony of Dr. Elva Poznanski, a child psychiatrist, who testified that she met with Doe during February and March of 1989, at the request of Dr. Bennett Braun, the head of the dissociative disorders unit at Rush-Presbyterian Hospital.
Professor Eloise Cornelius, an Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, Chicago,
The court also received testimony from Dr. Corwin, an expert witness for the defense,
Dr. Corwin testified that when Doe made allegations of abuse, the Stoseks rewarded her with favorable treatment, yet if she later denied these allegations, she was not treated as favorably. Dr. Corwin also noted that Mrs. Stosek was reading extensive material about child abuse, satanic and ritual abuse, and multiple personality disorders during the time in which Doe was making these allegations, and that in his opinion, Doe was "unintentionally led" to make false allegations against the Swazieks and that these allegations were the product of parental suggestion. Lastly, Dr. Corwin stated that because of the record of instability in Doe's life and placements, he was of the opinion that she was concocting the allegations of abuse as part of an attempt to ensure that she could remain with her current family.
Doe contests two of the court's jury instructions. The first is the "missing witness/evidence"
Additionally, Doe contests the short form proximate cause instruction given by the court,
After the testimony was closed and subsequent to final arguments and the jury charge, Doe's attorney moved to submit numerous drawings made by Doe while she was in therapy. Doe's drawings were given to Dr. Poznanski, by the Stoseks, to aid in her diagnosis of Doe. Dr. Poznanski referred to
Dr. Poznanski testified that the contents of the drawings confirmed her belief that Doe was abused by her foster parents. For reasons unexplained in the record, the drawings were not timely offered in evidence during or immediately after Dr. Poznanski's testimony. Doe's attorney did state to the court that he was reserving the right to offer the drawings at a later time, but the attorney failed to move for the introduction of these exhibits until the testimony was closed, after respective counsel had completed their closing arguments, and the jury had been instructed. The defendants' objected to the admission of the drawings and the judge refused to reopen the testimony to allow the admission of these drawings holding that the motion was untimely and "any probative value that this evidence may have would be outweighed by jury confusion." The judge had previously expressed concern that the drawings were "exhibits that a professional would have to interpret" because "there is certainly nothing on the face" of the drawings that the jurors would find helpful in reaching a verdict.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants and the plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial based on: the court's limiting of Dr. Kraut's testimony; the failure to give the long-form proximate cause instruction, the reading of the "missing witness/evidence" instruction; the admission of the DCFS and CWLA standards; the refusal to admit Doe's drawings; the admission of Dr. Corwin's testimony; the refusal to allow Dr. Poznanski to discuss Doe's future medical needs; and the allegedly improper and prejudicial remarks the defendants' attorney made in his closing argument about Dr. Braun and the inferences the jury could draw from his absence, the significance of the DCFS and CWLA standards and regulations, and the burden of proof in this case. The district court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, based on the issues raised in this appeal, and ruled that the verdict was not against the manifest weight of the evidence and that the plaintiffs' contentions were without merit. The plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.
On appeal, Doe presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion when it limited the redirect examination of Dr. Kraut; (2) whether the court properly instructed the jury on the issue of proximate cause; (3) whether the court erred in giving the jury "missing witness" and "missing evidence" instructions; (4) whether the court abused its discretion when:
"We review a trial judge's decision to admit or exclude evidence under an abuse of discretion standard." Walton v. Jennings Community Hosp., Inc., 999 F.2d 277, 282 (7th Cir.1993) (citations omitted). "[U]nder this standard, a reviewing court gives special deference to the rulings of the trial court." Wheeler v. Sims, 951 F.2d 796, 802 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 113 S.Ct. 320, 121 L.Ed.2d 241 (1992) (citation omitted).
Id. (citations omitted).
We review jury instructions as a whole, "to determine whether the jury was misled in any way and whether the jury had a proper understanding of its duties. Instructions which are accurate statements of the law and which are supported by the record will not be disturbed on appeal." United States v. Edwards, 36 F.3d 639, 645 (7th Cir.1994) (citations omitted). "We must construe the instructions in their entirety, not in isolation, and look for overall fairness and accuracy." United States v. Dack, 987 F.2d 1282, 1285 (7th Cir.1993) (citations omitted).
We will not reverse the district court's decision to deny a motion for a new trial "unless there has been an error as a matter of law or a clear and manifest abuse of discretion." United States v. Ferguson, 35 F.3d 327, 331 (7th Cir.1994) (citation omitted).
While Doe does not contest the district court's ruling that Dr. Kraut's testimony could only be used to assess Doe's credibility, she asserts that Tag "opened the door"
Doe's claim that Dr. Kraut should have been allowed to testify about James C.'s medication after his release from the hospital must fail because she failed to comply with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(a)(5) which requires citation to authorities in support of arguments on appeal.
We also disagree with Doe's argument for we are of the opinion that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it sustained Tag's objection to the question posed on re-direct examination. When Doe's attorney asked Dr. Kraut whether James continued to grow and gain weight after he left the Swazieks' home, Tag made a general objection which the court sustained. Doe's attorney abandoned his objection to the limiting of Dr. Kraut's testimony by not pursuing it or requesting of the presiding judge that she make a specific ruling as to why it was sustained; thus it was not properly preserved for our review. "It will be assumed [in the case of a general objection which is sustained], in the absence of any request by the opposing party or the court to make the objection definite, that it was understood, and [if any ground exists for the exclusion] that the ruling was placed on the right ground." Hutter Northern Trust v. Door County Chamber of Commerce, 467 F.2d 1075, 1079 (7th Cir.1972) (quoting McCormick Evidence, § 52 (2d ed. 1972)) (alteration in original); cf. United States v. Kladouris, 964 F.2d 658, 665 (7th Cir.1992) (general objections to the reception of evidence do not preserve an issue for appellate review because they do not alert the court or opposing party as to the specific grounds for the objection).
Furthermore, any favorable testimony from Dr. Kraut would have been repetitious because the information Doe states that she wanted to elicit had been previously admitted in evidence. During cross-examination, Dr. Kraut made it clear that, in his opinion, James C.'s malnutrition was the result of not receiving a balanced diet, that is not ingesting a sufficient caloric intake while he was living with the Swazieks. Additionally, on re-direct examination, Doe's attorney was given ample opportunity to question Dr. Kraut about his diagnosis of James C.'s condition. Plaintiffs' counsel asked Dr. Kraut to explain his finding that James C. suffered from "caloric deprivation," and asked him about the tests he performed on James C. which ruled out other potential medical conditions that could have caused James C.'s weight problem. Dr. Kraut also testified, without objection, that James C. remained on Ritalin
Even were we to hold that the district court improperly limited Dr. Kraut's redirect testimony, any potential error was harmless. At the end of Dr. Kraut's examination, the judge explicitly reminded the jury that his testimony "may not be considered as to the defendants Tag, now known as Childserv, or Susan Clement. That evidence may be considered in your evaluation of the credibility of [Doe], the child who testified yesterday." "Jurors are presumed to follow limiting instructions," Crossley v. General Motors Corp., 33 F.3d 818, 822 (7th Cir.1994), and this presumption is only overcome if there is an "overwhelming probability" that the jury was unable to follow the instruction as given. United States v. Beverly, 913 F.2d 337, 354 (7th Cir.1990), aff'd. sub nom. Griffin v. United States, 502 U.S. 46, 112 S.Ct. 466, 116 L.Ed.2d 371 (1991). Doe has failed to point us to anything in the record, much less advance any persuasive argument, to convince us that the jurors did not follow the judge's directions or that they considered Dr. Kraut's testimony for any reason other than to evaluate her credibility. Furthermore, the judge's instructions were clear and understandable and there is not an overwhelming probability that the jurors were unable to follow them.
Trial judges have "wide discretion in managing cross-examination and ruling on the admissibility of evidence." United States v. Dillard, 43 F.3d 299, 305 (7th Cir.1994) (citation omitted). The effect of this discretion is that management of examination is largely confined to the trial level and removed "from the area of profitable appellate review." Mercado v. Ahmed, 974 F.2d 863, 872-73 (7th Cir.1992). The judge properly limited the scope of Dr. Kraut's testimony and instructed the jurors as to the permissible uses of his testimony. We are in agreement with the trial judge's ruling and hold that the court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to allow Doe's attorney to continue questioning Dr. Kraut further about the causes of James C.'s malnutrition on redirect examination.
Doe's next contention is that the court erred when it read the jury the short form instruction on proximate cause, rather than the long form instruction proposed by her attorney. Doe argues that the short form instruction is appropriate only in cases where there is one tortfeasor, and that because there were numerous tortfeasors in this case, the short form instruction was improper. Tag responds that Doe waived this argument on appeal by failing to provide authority in support of her argument, and that in the alternative, the short form instruction properly alerted the jury as to the possibility of more than one cause of Doe's injuries.
We begin our discussion noting that, contrary to the defendants' assertion, Doe has cited relevant authority for her argument about this jury instruction; therefore, it is appropriate for us to consider its merits. Reversal based on a faulty jury instruction is "mandated only if the jury's comprehension of the issues is so misguided that it prejudiced the complaining party." Dack, 987 F.2d at 1284 (citations omitted).
Although Doe does provide authority for her argument in her brief, she failed to make a proper, much less a timely objection to the proposed instruction during the jury instruction conference. It is well settled that, "[n]o party may assign as error the giving or the failure to give an instruction unless the party objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating distinctly the matter objected to and the grounds of the objection." Fed.R.Civ.P. 51. Although Doe's attorney made a general objection to the short form instruction during the jury instruction conference, he gave no
We also note that the district court did not commit error in its instructions to the jury on the issue of proximate cause. In addition to reading the short instruction, the judge specifically informed the jury that each defendant's case must be considered individually and that:
This instruction is clear and unambiguous and goes right to the heart of Doe's argument on appeal, demonstrating that the jury was clearly informed that each defendant's culpability must be assessed separately. The special verdict form also required the jury to return separate findings as to each defendant's liability.
After review, and in light of the short form instruction given to the jurors, combined with the additional instructions given by the judge, and the special verdict form, we are of the opinion that the jury was not misled and was properly instructed on the issue of proximate cause. Because jurors are presumed to follow the court's instructions and the plaintiffs have provided no concrete facts, much less a plausible argument to the contrary, see, Crossley, 33 F.3d at 822, we are also of the belief that the jury understood and followed the court's instruction on proximate cause and that Doe suffered no prejudice from the short form instruction.
Doe's third argument is that it was improper to give the jury the "missing witness/evidence" instruction based on her failure to call Dr. Braun, one of her experts designated to testify at trial, and her failure to provide audio tapes of conversations with her parents that were given to one of her therapists. Doe contends that she did not call Dr. Braun because his testimony would have been cumulative since it merely corroborated Dr. Poznanski's testimony, and further explained that the tapes were not produced because Linda Alford, Doe's therapist, never returned them. The defendants counter that in a pre-trial motion, the plaintiffs were specifically granted the right to question Dr. Braun because the judge found that his testimony was not going to be cumulative. The defendants also assert that the plaintiffs' contention that the tapes were never returned is "unconvincing" because had the tapes contained evidence helpful to the plaintiffs, they would have been produced.
At the jury instruction conference, Doe's attorney stated that he proposed the missing witness instruction in case the defense failed to call any rebuttal witnesses she deemed necessary, yet when the defense turned her own proposed instruction on her, she sought to have the verdict overturned. An objection of this nature is without merit, to say the least, and we hold that Doe cannot raise the propriety of the missing witness instruction when her counsel proposed the very same instruction.
The plaintiffs did object to the "missing evidence" instruction as it pertained to the audio taped conversations between Doe and the Stoseks. Mrs. Stosek claims that the tapes were last in the possession of Alford and that she did not remember getting them back and in any event, through no fault of her own, she was unable to produce them in court. The defendants argue that the allegations made by Doe during these taped conversations were the result of parental suggestion by Mrs. Stosek, yet the jurors were given no opportunity to hear them at trial. The defense claimed that the factual dispute as to what happened to the tapes, and that the tapes could have shown that Doe's allegation were the product of parental suggestion, were sufficient justifications to give the missing evidence instruction.
The district court read the jury the Illinois Pattern Instruction 5.01 which contains four prerequisites before a jury can be permitted to draw an adverse inference from a party's failure to produce certain evidence at trial: (1) the evidence must be within that party's control; (2) it must not be equally available to the opposing party; (3) the party would have offered the evidence if it was favorable; (4) the party last in possession of the evidence has failed to establish any reasonable excuse for the failure to produce the evidence. Although we have not explicitly expressed our disagreement with the requirements of this instruction, we have examined this exact same instruction on two previous occasions and noted our "doubts" about the first two prongs of the missing evidence instruction. See Berry v. Deloney, 28 F.3d 604, 609 (7th Cir.1994); Niehus v. Liberio, 973 F.2d 526, 530-31 (7th Cir.1992). In Niehus, we stated that "[o]ne might have supposed that it should be enough that the party could have produced the evidence and that he surely would have done so had the evidence been favorable to him — implying that the evidence was in fact not favorable to him." 973 F.2d at 530. We went on to say that "control" may sometimes be relevant as a
After review, we are of the opinion that there is no reason to believe that plaintiffs would not produce the tapes except that they were detrimental to their case. During cross-examination, Mrs. Stosek stated that she gave the tapes to Alford, but did not remember Alford ever having returned the tapes. Mrs. Stosek never testified that the tapes were lost or that Alford refused to return them. During her testimony, she discussed the contents of the conversations on the tapes, yet did not produce them at trial to verify her recollection of what transpired during those conversations. The record is barren as to what actually happened to these tapes, but it is a permissible inference that if they were truly probative of Doe's alleged abuse, and if they rebutted the defendants' contention that Doe's memories of abuse were the product of parental suggestion, then the plaintiffs would have produced the tapes. Thus, in our opinion, the court did not abuse its discretion when, at the request of the defendants, it instructed the jurors that they could draw the permissible inference that the tapes would have revealed evidence unfavorable to the plaintiffs. We are convinced that the plaintiffs were not improperly prejudiced by this instruction.
Doe's next argument is that the district court abused its discretion when it admitted the Illinois DCFS and CWLA standards for licensing and registering foster care placement agencies into evidence. She claims that these standards improperly led the jury to conclude that Tag and Clement, the caseworker, exercised proper care with respect to her placement with the Swazieks. The defense maintains that the standards were properly admitted because they were given as an aid to the jury, providing them with guidelines in which to determine whether or not Tag and Clement complied with the professional standard of care for foster care placement and supervision.
Once again, we note that because Doe has failed to provide the court with any support for her argument, she forfeits this claim on appeal. Even had she cited authority for her claim, it would still fail because in Illinois, regulations, standards, and by-laws function as evidence of custom in a particular field, and are acceptable evidence of the standard of care to which an agency is held. Darling v. Charleston Community Memorial Hosp., 33 Ill.2d 326, 211 N.E.2d 253, 257 (1965), cert. denied, 383 U.S. 946, 86 S.Ct. 1204, 16 L.Ed.2d 209 (1966); see also Schindel v. Albany Medical Corp., 252 Ill.App.3d 389, 192 Ill.Dec. 154, 159, 625 N.E.2d 114, 119 (1 Dist.1993) (evidence of accreditation standards and regulations are admissible, either alone or to supplement expert testimony, to establish a standard of care). Additionally, when dealing with an injury incurred while performing structural work in the state of Illinois, this court has held that the state's Health and Safety Act Rules were admissible to assist the jury in determining the standard of care applicable to persons or legal entities charged with violating the Illinois Structural Work Act. Schroeder v. C.F. Braun & Co., 502 F.2d 235, 243 (7th Cir. 1974).
Professor Cornelius, a defense expert witness retained for this trial, reviewed Tag's records in light of the DCFS and CWLA standards, and relied on her own knowledge, experience and expertise to come to the conclusion that Tag and Clement properly supervised Doe's placement with the Swazieks. The judge admitted the standards to aid the jury in determining the proper standard of care to which Tag and Clement should be held. We have been unable to find anything in the record in support of Doe's assertion that the judge admitted these standards as conclusive proof that Tag and Clement met their standard of care, but rather, she specifically instructed the jury that
(Emphasis added). Additionally, the judge clearly stated that these standards "certainly do not mandate the jury. They are not binding on the jury to follow."
The licensing standards which Tag and Clement were obligated to follow, together with Professor Cornelius' testimony, gave the jury guidelines in which they could determine whether or not Tag and Clement exercised the proper standard of care in their placement and supervision of Doe. The jurors were free to consider all relevant evidence regarding Tag's and Clement's actions in placing and supervising Doe while in a foster care home. As a result, the admission of the DCFS and CWLA standards was not an abuse of discretion.
Doe's next assignment of error involves some drawings she made which Dr. Poznanski relied upon in reaching the conclusion that Doe was both physically as well as sexually abused. When Dr. Poznanski testified, she repeatedly referred to these drawings, and stated that both the figures drawn, and the manner in which they were drawn and arranged, indicated that it was likely that Doe was abused by her foster parents. At the close of Doe's case, her attorney reserved the right to offer the drawings in evidence, but he failed to timely move the court to have the drawings admitted until after testimony was closed, closing arguments were made and the jury was instructed. The defense objected to the untimely admission of the drawings at this point in the proceedings and the court refused the plaintiffs' tardy tender of the drawings stating that the motion was untimely and that the drawings were likely to confuse the jurors. The plaintiffs claim that these drawings were relevant evidence that should have been given to the jury.
"[T]he district court has wide discretion in deciding whether to allow a party to reopen proofs after the close of evidence," and we will only review its decision for an abuse of discretion. Kafka v. Truck Ins. Exchange, 19 F.3d 383, 389 (7th Cir.1994). The timing of Doe's motion to admit the drawings into evidence was improper and should have been made while Dr. Poznanski was testifying about the drawings. Concerning the untimeliness, Doe has provided no sound argument as to why the court's refusal to give the drawings to the jury was an abuse of discretion.
Dr. Poznanski testified, both on direct and cross examination, and without objection, about the substance of the drawings and the conclusions she drew from them. Thus, the contents and her interpretation of the drawings were in evidence and it was unnecessary to give the actual drawings to the jury. We agree with the trial judge that it is quite probable that the drawings would have needlessly confused the jurors,
The plaintiffs have failed to specify any grounds, much less case law, in support of their argument that the court committed error in refusing to admit the drawings; we thus hold that the district court's refusal to allow Doe to re-open her case for the admission of the drawings, after closing arguments were completed and the jury was instructed, was not an abuse of discretion.
Doe also argues that Dr. Corwin was allowed to testify about Doe's credibility and that such testimony invaded the province of the jurors, who are the sole arbiters of credibility. Tag counters that Dr. Corwin testified that after reviewing Mrs. Stosek's diaries and Doe's medical records, he was of the opinion that Doe made allegations of abuse when she was about to be punished by her parents, that if she recanted her allegations, she was treated unfavorably by the Stoseks, and that he believed that Doe's allegations were the product of parental suggestion. Furthermore, Tag contends that Doe has waived this argument on appeal because she failed to make a timely objection to this aspect of Dr. Corwin's testimony at trial.
The defendants are correct that Doe did not object to the substance of Dr. Corwin's testimony during the trial. Therefore, she has waived this issue for appellate review. Fed.R.Evid. 103(a). Even if the issue was properly preserved, Doe's claim would still fail because the testimony given by Dr. Corwin did not interfere with the jury's responsibility to judge the credibility of Doe or any witness at trial, and the district judge specifically instructed the jury that Dr. Corwin's testimony was only one of the factors to be considered in their assessment of Doe's credibility.
Dr. Corwin testified that much of the abuse Doe was able to recall probably was received at the hands of her biological parents, not the Swazieks. He also noted that when Doe told the Stoseks she was abused by the Swazieks, she was rewarded with favorable treatment, and knew that were she to recant these allegations, she would be subjected to punishment. He further pointed out that Mrs. Stosek was conducting extensive research into child and satanic ritual abuse during the particular time frame in which Doe was making these allegations.
Dr. Corwin never offered an opinion as to the credibility of either Doe or Mrs. Stosek, but rather, merely discussed the possibility that Doe's allegations were influenced by Mrs. Stosek's contemporaneous research into child abuse. Doe's own expert witness, Dr. Poznanski, testified during her cross-examination that this type of suggestion was possible. We hold that the court's ruling that allowed Dr. Corwin to express an opinion regarding his evaluation of Doe's medical records, Mrs. Stosek's diary, and his own interview with Doe did not invade the province of the jury as arbiters of credibility, especially in light of all the facts and circumstances presented to the jury as well as the fact that defense counsel had a thorough opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Corwin and the court's jury instructions as to the limited application of such testimony. All that Dr. Corwin's testimony provided to the jury was more information concerning the facts and circumstances in this case to aid them in weighing Doe's credibility.
We agree with the district judge that at no point were the juror's functions as arbiter of credibility invaded for the district court carefully instructed them and made clear that they were "the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to the testimony of each of them." During Dr. Corwin's testimony, the judge specifically told the jury that
The court properly limited the scope of Dr. Corwin's testimony, and the jurors were free to give his testimony whatever weight they deemed proper. From our review of Dr. Corwin's testimony, we are in agreement with the trial court's ruling that the evidence did not invade the province of the jury as to the question of credibility and merely dealt with his opinion that Doe's allegations probably were fabricated and were the product of parental and therapeutic suggestion.
Doe's next contention is that the district court's refusal to allow her to question Dr. Poznanski about Doe's future medical needs was an abuse of discretion. Dr. Poznanski
"A party that without substantial justification fails to disclose information required by Rule 26(a) or 26(e)(1) shall not, unless such failure is harmless, be permitted to use as evidence at a trial, at a hearing, or on a motion any witness or information not so disclosed." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1). "We review the district court's decision to impose Rule 37 sanctions for abuse of discretion. Indeed, because the district court is in the best position to determine whether a party has complied with discovery orders, its discretion `is especially broad.'" Shine v. Owens-Illinois, 979 F.2d 93, 96 (7th Cir.1992) (citations omitted).
Doe attempted to admit testimony about expert opinions that were formed after the close of the court's discovery schedule, yet she failed to provide the defendants with a summary of the substance of the expert's testimony. As such, the court acted well within its discretion when it refused to admit testimony about Dr. Poznanski's post-deposition findings. While Doe asserts that the defendants' could have obtained these opinions during the deposition, Dr. Poznanski refused to offer any opinion about Doe's need for continuing treatment at the deposition.
Furthermore, Dr. Poznanski's opinions were relevant only to the issue of damages, an issue that the jury never was called upon to consider for it returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. "[P]resentation of evidence regarding the scope and effect of ... injuries assists the jury only in determining damages.... As a matter of law, such testimony cannot be presumed to have any material effect on the jury's ruling on liability." Mraovic v. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. Co., 897 F.2d 268, 271 (7th Cir.1990) (citation omitted). Because the judge properly limited the substance of Dr. Poznanski's testimony to that which was disclosed to the defendants in a timely manner, and because the jury never even reached the issue of damages, Doe's claim of abuse of discretion is without merit.
The final issue on appeal is whether the defendants' attorney made improper and prejudicial remarks during his closing argument such that a new trial should have been granted. Doe lists a number of remarks as the basis for this contention including the fact that defense counsel referred to the "missing" witness and evidence, stated that adverse inferences could be drawn from their absence, referred to the DCFS and CWLA standards and regulations as evidence that Tag did not breach its duty of care, and
It is true that "neither trial tactics nor mere temerity will excuse counsel's failure to object to a remark made in closing argument." Carmel v. Clapp & Eisenberg, P.C., 960 F.2d 698, 704 (7th Cir.1992) (citations omitted). At trial, Doe's counsel made no objections to the defendants' closing argument, yet now tries to raise its impropriety on appeal. Any potentially improper statements should have been called to the attention of the trial judge, in order that she might be given a timely opportunity to correct any prejudice that might result from such remarks. The plaintiffs' failure to do so, waives this issue on appeal.
Furthermore, "[t]his court has repeatedly explained that `improper comments during closing argument rarely rise to the level of reversible error.'" Valbert v. Pass, 866 F.2d 237, 241 (7th Cir.1989) (citation omitted). The plaintiff has a heavy burden when she seeks a new trial based on improper remarks during a closing argument and from our review of the record, we are of the opinion that Doe has not even come close to meeting her burden. We disagree with Doe's argument for the bulk of the comments she alleges were improper were clearly based on the testimony received as well as the jury instructions given. As explained above, those instructions were proper. Thus the defendants' reference to the "missing" witness and evidence does not constitute error, especially in light of the fact that Doe's attorney proposed a missing witness instruction. Furthermore, admission of the CWLA and DCFS standards was wholly appropriate as was defense counsel's reliance on them during closing. Finally, the judge properly instructed the jury that the plaintiffs bore the burden of proof in this case; therefore, Doe's contention that she was prejudiced when the defense attorney told the jury that the plaintiffs' attorney bore the burden of proof is without merit. The district court was well within its discretion to deny the motion for a new trial because the defense attorney's remarks in closing argument were proper.