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Ellsworth v. Prison Health Services Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 16, 2014

James Ellsworth, Plaintiff,
Prison Health Services Incorporated, et al., Defendants.


JOHN A. JARVEY, District Judge.

Plaintiff pro se James Ellsworth, who has multiple sclerosis, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS"), [1] and Dr. Kirsten Mortenson. Basically, the plaintiff claims that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs while he was a pre-trial detainee at the Mohave County Jail. Finding that there were genuine issues of material fact, the court denied the defendants' summary judgment motion. This case is scheduled for trial on April 29, 2014. Currently pending before the court are two defense motions in limine (Docs. 172 and 173).


The plaintiff intends to call himself and 12 other witnesses. The defendants are seeking to preclude the plaintiff from calling three of those witnesses. They also are seeking to limit the scope of the plaintiff's testimony. Asserting that they do not "possess knowledge relevant to the claims at issue[, ]" the defendants are seeking to preclude the testimony of Richard Hallworth, Corizon's former Chief Executive Officer; James Glover, the court reporter during the plaintiff's April 30, 2010, criminal proceeding in Mohave County Superior Court; and Stephen Brown, PHS' Senior Director of Liability. Mot. (Doc. 172) at 2:25.

In response, the plaintiff contends that the court should allow Mr. Hallworth to testify because he is a factual witness with knowledge of PHS's policies and customs. The plaintiff also describes Mr. Brown as a fact witness, but the claimed substance of his testimony is a "descript[tion] [of] the policies and procedures in place to protect P.H.S. from liability." Resp. (Doc. 177) at 2. Originally, the plaintiff planned to call Mr. Glover as a witness to authenticate the transcript from the plaintiff's criminal court hearing. However, because now the plaintiff has received a certified copy of that transcript, he indicates that it will not be necessary to call Mr. Glover as a witness if the defendants will stipulate to authenticity. The defendants did not file a reply and the time to do so has long since passed. See LRCiv. 7.2(d).

In their second motion in limine, the defendants are seeking to preclude the plaintiff from offering his "opinions" as to "medical causation, such as efficacy of certain care, medication administration or other medical decisions, ... amount[ing] to expert medical opinion." Mot. (Doc. 173) at 2:22-25 (citation omitted). The basis for this argument is that the plaintiff is not a physician, and thus he is not qualified to testify as an expert upon the foregoing in accordance with Fed.R.Evid. 702.


I. Legal Standard

"A motion in limine is a procedural mechanism to limit in advance testimony or evidence in a particular area." Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank , 735 F.3d 1158, 1162 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Heller , 551 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2009) (other citation omitted). Such a motion "is a preliminary motion that is entirely within the discretion of the Court." Jaynes Corp. v. American Safety Indem. Co., 2014 WL 1154180, at *1 (D.Nev. March 20, 2014) (citing Luce v. United States , 469 U.S. 38, 41-42, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984)). The Ninth Circuit in Hana, noted that Goodman v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't, 963 F.Supp.2d 1036 (D.Nev. 2013), "set[s] forth the standards applicable to motions in limine." Hana , 735 F.3d at 1162 n. 4. There, the court explained in pertinent part:

To exclude evidence on a motion in limine the evidence must be inadmissible on all potential grounds.... Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.... This is because although rulings on motions in limine may save time, costs, effort and preparation, a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence.

Goodman, 963 F.Supp.2d at 1047 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Motions in limine are "provisional" in nature. Id . Therefore, rulings on such motions "are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial.'" Id . (quoting Ohler v. United States , 529 U.S. 753, 758 n. 3, 120 S.Ct. 1851, 146 L.Ed.2d 826 (2000)) (citing Luce , 469 U.S. at 41, 105 S.Ct. 460 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner)). "Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted to trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded.'" Id . (quoting Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co. , 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D.Ohio 2004)). Against this legal backdrop the court will consider the defendants' motions in limine.

II. Motions In Limine

A. To Preclude Plaintiff From Calling Certain ...

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