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Guerrero v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 11, 2015

Guadalupe Guerrero, Plaintiff,
v.
United States of America, Defendant.

ORDER

JAMES A. SOTO, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are the parties' motions in limine. For the reasons stated below, the motions are denied.[1]

BACKGROUND

This is a Federal Tort Claims Act case against the United States. Plaintiff is the mother of decedent Carlos LaMadrid.

On March 21, 2011, the Douglas Police Department received an anonymous tip that a Chevrolet Avalanche was transporting marijuana. Upon observing an Avalanche and believing it to be the one described in the tip, officers from the Douglas Police Department began pursuing the vehicle and attempted to get the driver to pull over. The driver of the Avalanche did not pull over and eventually made his way to the international border fence.

When the Avalanche arrived at the border fence, Border Patrol Agent Lucas Tidwell responded to the scene. The Avalanche came to a stop near the border fence, and two individuals jumped out of the car and attempted to flee. The driver was 19-year old Carlos LaMadrid, and the passenger was a 17-year old male. LaMadrid and his companion fled their vehicle and tried to climb a ladder that was propped against the border. At the top of the border fence was a man who began throwing large rocks at Agent Tidwell apparently to aid the escape of the two suspects. In response, Agent Tidwell began firing his weapon and several of the shots struck LaMadrid on the back side of his body as he was climbing the ladder. According to Agent Tidwell, he was firing his weapon at the man positioned at the top of the border fence who was throwing rocks at him. Tidwell claims that he was in fear for his life, and that he was acting in self-defense; unfortunately, as LaMadrid was ascending the ladder, he entered into Tidwell's line of fire and was inadvertently struck and killed. Plaintiffs argue that as LaMadrid presented no danger as he was climbing a ladder with his back facing Tidwell, the fatal shots to LaMadrid's back were either intentional, or were otherwise reckless and unjustified such that the Government is liable for LaMadrid's death.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

General Standards of Admissibility

Fed. R. Evid. 402 provides: "Relevant evidence is admissible unless any of the following provides otherwise: • the United States Constitution; • a federal statute; • these rules; or • other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court. Irrelevant evidence is not admissible." Fed.R.Evid. 401 defines relevant evidence as follows: "Evidence is relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 403 provides that: "The court may exclude relevant evidence if 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."

Expert Testimony

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. The rule provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence ...

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