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Sherwood v. BNSF Railway Company

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 4, 2019

ROBERT WILLIAM SHERWOOD and PAMELA LOUISE SHERWOOD, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, a Delaware corporation d/b/a The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, and JOHN DOES I through X, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill, U.S. District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Currently before the Court are several motions in limine. See Dkts. 166, 168, 170, 184. Having considered the briefs and the record in this case, the Court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary and issues the following Order.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Plaintiffs' Motions in Limine

         At issue are Plaintiffs' Motion re: Collateral Sources (Dkt. 166), Motion to Enforce Rule 30(b)(6) “No-Knowledge” Answers (Dkt. 168), and Omnibus Motion in Limine (Dkt. 170).

         A. Motion re: Collateral Sources (Dkt. 166)

         Plaintiffs ask the Court to exclude any evidence or argument at trial that Blue Cross or Medicare paid or obtained write-downs from Mr. Sherwood's medical providers. Dkt. 166 at 1. Defendants agree that “plaintiff should present the full amount of claimed damages and the Court would handle off-sets in post-verdict motions.” Dkt. 195 at 4. As both parties point out, Idaho Code § 6-1606 prohibits double recoveries from collateral sources in any action for personal injury. See Dkts. 166, 195. The statute provides that judgment may be entered “only for damages which exceed amounts received by the claimant from collateral sources as compensation for the personal injury....” I.C. § 6-1606.

         The Court agrees with the parties that the collateral source issue is best handled post-trial. The Court will grant the motion, reserving application of Idaho Code § 6-1606 to post trial proceedings regarding damages, if appropriate.

         B. Motion to Enforce Rule 30(b)(6) “No-Knowledge” Answers (Dkt. 168)

         Plaintiffs also try to preclude Defendants from introducing evidence at trial that would contradict certain answers given by BNSF's 30(b)(6) representative during depositions. Dkt. 168 at 1. Plaintiffs' Motion purports to “enforce the Court's prior ruling” that “if the [30(b)(6)] deponent does not know the answer to the question, then BNSF will be bound by that response at trial.” Id. at 2, quoting Dkt. 143 at 15. Defendants counter that “there is no prohibition against Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses providing clarification, explanation, supplementation, even contradiction for the testimony of other witnesses or themselves.” Dkt. 193 at 3. Because Plaintiffs overstate the scope of the Court's Order and would have the Court sidestep contrary Ninth Circuit precedent regarding the effect of 30(b)(6) deposition testimony, the Court will deny the motion.

         The Ninth Circuit has repeatedly stated that corporate parties have an opportunity to clarify their 30(b)(6) representative's deposition testimony at trial, even contradicting it if there is sufficient reason to do so. While a corporate party “generally cannot present a theory of the facts that differs from that articulated by the designated Rule 30(b)(6) representative…the testimony of a Rule 30(b)(6) deponent does not absolutely bind the corporation in the sense of a judicial admission.” Snapp v. United Transportation Union, 889 F.3d 1088, 1103 (9th Cir. 2018). Like any other deposition, 30(b)(6) testimony can be “contradicted and used for impeachment purposes.” Id. (quoting 7 James Wm. Moore, et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 30.25[3] (3d ed. 2016)). The Ninth Circuit's endorsement of hornbook law on this issue makes clear that a party is not precluded from introducing evidence at trial that contradicts the testimony of its 30(b)(6) representative. Plaintiffs may, however, use the corporation's deposition testimony for impeachment purposes, or to point out instances where BNSF might be introducing contradictory evidence without good reason or explanation. See id. at 1103. Any suggestion that the Court's Order (Dkt. 143) stating that BNSF would be “bound” by a response if the 30(b)(6) deponent did not know the answer to the question overstates the scope of the Court's Order and would run counter to controlling Ninth Circuit precedent. Therefore, Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce 30(b)(6) “No-Knowledge” Answers will be denied. Depending upon the testimony given, the Court may consider giving the jury an explanatory instruction on the function of the 30(b)(6) deposition and the obligation of the deposed party to offer a representative who is knowledgeable and able to address the topics identified by the deposing party.

         C. Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion in Limine (Dkt. 170)

         Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion in Limine asks the Court to exclude any argument, reference, testimony, or documentary evidence pertaining to three (3) issues: (1) possible reasons that might have motivated former Plaintiffs' former spouse to dismiss her claims; (2) Mr. Sherwood's former illegal drug use; and (3) ...


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