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Salazar v. Flores

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 5, 2019

Mario Salazar, Plaintiff,
v.
Arturo Flores, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE STEVEN P. LOGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are ten motions in limine filed by both Plaintiff Mario Salazar (the “Plaintiff”) and Defendants Arturo Flores (“Flores”) and Lily Transportation (together, the “Defendants”). Each of the motions in limine was fully briefed on or before August 13, 2019. On August 27, 2019, the Court held a final pretrial conference and heard oral argument on all of the pending motions in limine. The Court's rulings are as follows.

         I. Background

         On May 20, 2014, the Plaintiff was parked at a rest stop in Wikieup, Arizona, when a semi-truck operated by Flores collided into the Plaintiff's vehicle. (Doc. 1 at 8) The Plaintiff was injured by the collision and incurred medical costs. (Doc. 1 at 9) The semi-truck was owned by Flores' employer Lily Transportation. (Doc. 1 at 8) The Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit seeking to recover damages on claims for negligence, negligent entrustment, and negligent hiring, among other claims. (Doc. 1 at 8-12)

         II. Analysis

         A. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Defendant Arturo Flores' Employment with Lily Transportation (Doc. 55)

         The Defendants seek to exclude evidence related to Flores' employment with Lily Transportation beyond the plain fact that Flores was employed by Lily Transportation at the time of the collision. (Doc. 55 at 1) Specifically, the Defendants seek to exclude evidence of Flores' “driver's qualification file, ” personnel file, employment records, or any of Flores' deposition testimony regarding Lily Transportation's safety or training policies under Federal Rules of Evidence (“FRE”) 402 and 403. (Doc. 55 at 2) The Defendants admit that Lily Transportation is vicariously liable for the actions of Flores, and, on March 18, 2019, the Court granted the Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on the Plaintiff's negligent entrustment claim. (Doc. 55 at 1; Doc. 51) The Defendants argue that no other additional evidence related to Flores' employment is relevant.

         In response, the Plaintiff argues that the Defendants' motion is premature, as the Court should decide whether Flores' employment file is relevant during trial. (Doc. 117 at 2) The Plaintiff also argues that evidence related to Flores' employment with Lily Transportation is relevant to the Plaintiff's claims for vicarious liability and negligence. (Doc. 117 at 2-3) Thus, the Plaintiff argues that the motion should be denied.

         The Court finds that excluding all evidence related to Flores' employment with Lily Transportation is premature at this time. There are several instances in which the information available in Flores' employment file may be relevant to the issues in this case. For example, the Plaintiff's negligence claim requires the Plaintiff to prove that Flores breached a duty that ultimately caused the Plaintiff's injuries. Issues related to Flores' employment with Lily Transportation could provide valuable insight into whether a breach occurred. Thus, the Court finds that evidence of Flores' employment with Lily Transportation is relevant and admissible under FREs 402 and 403. Accordingly, the motion will be denied without prejudice to renewed specific objections.

         B. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Plaintiff's Future Medical Care (Doc. 56)

         The Defendants seek to exclude testimony from witnesses Dr. Maryann Shannon and Dr. Raimundo Leon on the topic of the Plaintiff's future medical care. (Doc. 56 at 1) The Defendants argue that Dr. Shannon and Dr. Leon's opinions provide speculative conclusions about care that the Plaintiff “may” receive in the future, and the speculative conclusions do not rise to the reasonably probable standard required for their admissibility. (Doc. 56 at 2-3) In response, the Plaintiff argues that the motion is premature, and the Court should address specific objections to Dr. Shannon and Dr. Leon's testimonies at trial. (Doc. 123 at 3) The Plaintiff argues that the expert reports at issue were disclosed when the Plaintiff was actively seeking medical treatment. (Doc. 123 at 3) The Plaintiff also argues that the Defendants' attack on Dr. Leon's opinion does not consider supplemental reports issued by Dr. Leon after the Plaintiff's initial expert disclosure, and the Defendants' attack on Dr. Shannon's testimony solely relies on her use of the word “may” throughout her expert report. (Doc. 123 at 2-3) Thus, the Plaintiff argues that the motion should be denied.

         Ariziona law prohibits juries from relying on speculation to make decisions about future medical expenses. Saide v. Stanton, 659 P.2d 35, 36 (1983) (stating “Arizona courts have consistently followed the rule that in order for a trial court to properly submit the question of future medical expenses to the jury, the need for future care must be reasonably probable and there must be some evidence of the probable nature and cost of the future treatment.”) The Court finds that the expert reports provided by Dr. Shannon and Dr. Leon provide opinions that demonstrate that the Plaintiff requires care that is reasonably probable to be incurred in the future. For example, Dr. Shannon's opinion states that “[f]uture medical needs may include further intermittent sympathectomy and/or injections of the cervical spine, ” and “the need for physical therapy would be approximately 3 weeks per year.” (Doc. 56-1 at 8) Similarly, Dr. Leon's report stated that further treatment would be necessary in the form of repeat MRIs and electrodiagnostic studies. (Doc. 56-2 at 11) The Court finds that any issues related to testimony by Dr. Shannon or Dr. Leon are more effectively addressed through specific objections at trial. Accordingly, the motion will be denied without prejudice to renewed specific objections.

         C. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of the Costs of Plaintiff's Future Medical Care (Doc. 57)

         The Defendants seek to exclude testimony from witness Dr. Maryann Shannon regarding the costs of the Plaintiff's future medical care. (Doc. 57 at 1) Dr. Shannon estimated that the Plaintiff would need a spinal cord stimulator procedure performed, and the cost of that procedure is approximately $100, 000. (Doc. 57 at 1) Dr. Shannon also opined that the Plaintiff would need the spinal cord generators changed every five years. (Doc. 57 at 1) The Defendants argue that any evidence of the Plaintiff's future medical costs should be excluded because Dr. Shannon's estimation was not reduced to present value. (Doc. 57 at 2) The Defendant argues that future damages that have not been reduced to present value are prejudicial under FRE 403. (Doc. 57 at 3) In response, the Plaintiff argues that Arizona law does not require that damages estimations be reduced to present value. (Doc. 122 at 2) The Plaintiff also argues that Dr. ...


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