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Douglas A. Brown v. City of Caldwell

October 1, 2012

DOUGLAS A. BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CALDWELL, A SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF IDAHO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it Plaintiff Douglas Brown's motion in limine (Dkt. 61), as well Defendant City of Caldwell's two motions in limine (Dkts. 63&67).*fn1 The parties have been able to reach an agreement on many of these issues. For those issues that remain the Court will deny both Brown and the City's motions in limine.

ANALYSIS

1.Plaintiff's Motion in Limine

Brown asks the Court to preclude the City "from introducing, referencing, mentioning, or commenting on any alleged reason or basis for terminating Plaintiff's employment other than those identified on the November 18, 2009, Notice of Termination." Pl.'s Br. at 2. Brown maintains that the City has identified all the reasons for terminating Brown in this termination notice, and therefore evidence of any other reason would be irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 401.

The Court disagrees. As the City correctly notes, it is not required to show that Brown's termination was only for those reasons set forth in the notice. Instead, it only must show that Brown was not terminated for some unlawful reason. If the City now claims that it terminated Brown for reasons not specifically articulated in the notice, it may present evidence to support those alternative reasons. Conversely, Brown may argue to the jury that City officials must be fabricating these new reasons because they did not list them in the termination notice. This does not mean, however, that the new reasons would be inadmissible.

2.Defendant's Motion in Limine

Brown has stipulated regarding two of the City's motions in limine: (1) Brown will not mention his own bankruptcy at trial; and (2) Brown will not refer to the Defendant's insurer (ICRMP) at trial. In addition, the parties have already stipulated to removing the officially named individual parties, and this Court has entered an order effectuating that stipulation. Thus, the only remaining issue raised by the City relates to damages under the Idaho Whistleblower Act.

The City of Caldwell asks the Court to preclude plaintiff Douglas Brown from introducing evidence of "various non-economic damages" and special damages allegedly arising from Brown's whistleblower claim. The City has indicated some specific evidence it is concerned about with regard to the special damages, including evidence of money Brown spent (1) trying to find a job, (2) moving to Georgia, (3) renting a storage unit in Boise, (4) paying a bankruptcy attorney, and (5) buying a car, or more specifically, borrowing money to buy a car. See Mot. Mem., Dkt. 61-1.

The Court will deny this motion.

A. Idaho's Whistleblower Act

Under Idaho Code Section 6-2105, employees alleging whistleblower claims may sue for "appropriate injunctive relief or actual damages, or both, . . . ." I.C. § 6-2105(2). Within this same section, "damages" is defined to include "damages for injury or loss caused by each violation of this chapter." Idaho Code § 6-2105(1). Nothing in this language restricts plaintiffs from seeking non-economic or other special damages.

The City, however, argues that the very next section of the Whistleblower Act -- Idaho Code Section 6-2106 -- prevents plaintiffs from recovering non-economic and other special damages. Section 6-2106 lists specific things a court "may"order in rendering a judgment whistleblower claims, including (1) injunctive relief; (2) reinstatement; (3) compensation for "lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration"; (4) costs and attorneys' fees; and (5) civil fines.*fn2 The City contends that the types of relief listed here are exclusive and the only types a plaintiff may seek -- notwithstanding the broad definition of damages in the previous section. The City attempts to avoid Section 6-2105's ...


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