United States District Court, D. Idaho
CARLA DANIELLE GROSSKLAUS KUCIREK, Personal Representative for the Estate and Heirs of Theresa Ann Grossklaus deceased, Plaintiff,
MITCHELL B. JARED and JULIE A. JARED, husband and wife; CLEARWATER COUNTY, IDAHO; CLEARWATER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, and CLEARWATER COUNTY SHERIFF,  Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE
(DKT 50; DKT 51)
W. DALE U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
motions in limine are pending before the Court:
Defendants' Motion in Limine (Dkt. 50) and
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude
Evidence, Testimony, Reference or Argument. (Dkt. 51.) On
March 21, 2019, the Court heard oral argument on the motions.
For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and
deny in part Defendants' motion and will also grant in
part and deny in part Plaintiff's motion.
case centers around a highway collision between a pickup
truck and a bicyclist that left the bicyclist dead at the
scene of the accident. On July 18, 2014, Theresa Grossklaus
was riding a bicycle east on U.S. Highway 12 near Orofino,
Idaho. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 10; Dkt. 25 at 1.) At the same time,
on-duty Clearwater County Deputy Sheriff Mitchell B. Jared
was driving east on the highway in an unmarked patrol
vehicle-a Dodge Ram pickup truck. (Dkt. 10 ¶ 11.) Deputy
Jared's truck hit the bicycle from behind, and
Grossklaus's body was propelled from the bicycle and
struck by Deputy Jared's still-moving truck. Id.
at ¶ 20. Grossklaus was pronounced dead at the scene due
to injuries sustained from blunt force trauma to her head,
torso, and extremities. Id.; Dkt. 32-3 at 2.
cause of Ms. Grossklaus' death, blunt force trauma, is
not at issue. However, the question of whether she caused or
contributed to the accident that resulted in her death is
central to the claims and defenses in this case. The
following facts relate to that issue and to the parties'
motions in limine.
collision occurred at approximately 10:13 a.m. on a day with
clear visibility and dry roadway conditions. (Dkt. 26 at 2.)
According to the record before the Court, there are multiple
eye witnesses who reported seeing Ms. Grossklaus on the
highway the day of the collision. (Dkt. 55 at 4.) Two of eye
witnesses saw and passed Ms. Grossklaus on the roadway prior
to the collision. The first of these eye witnesses reported
passing Ms. Grossklaus on the bicycle sometime prior to the
collision. (Dkt. 61-1.) He stated that Ms. Grossklaus was
swerving into the middle lane of traffic, approximately 8 to
10 feet from the road's shoulder and in front of cars
Id. Another eye witness, traveling on a motorcycle,
passed Ms. Grossklaus minutes before the collision and stated
that she was weaving in and out of the traffic lane. (Dkt. 52
other eyewitnesses were driving behind Deputy Jared's
truck. One of these eyewitnesses was traveling approximately
150 feet behind Deputy Jared's truck. This driver
stated that she saw Ms. Grossklaus on the bicycle just prior
to the collision and that Ms. Grossklaus was riding the
bicycle on or near the road's white fog line at that
time. This witness saw the collision occur from behind Deputy
Jared. The second of these witnesses was driving 300 feet
behind Deputy Jared's truck (and thus, also behind the
first of these eye witnesses). (Dkt. 52 at 29-30.) The driver
stated that he saw Ms. Grossklaus riding near the fog line
but did not witness the collision because he looked away just
before impact. Id. According to the record before
the Court, Deputy Jared did not see Ms. Grossklaus until the
moment just before impact or at the moment of impact. (Dkt.
55 at 4.)
retained an accident reconstructionist who opined that Deputy
Jared's vehicle was traveling at a speed of 52 miles per
hour, plus or minus 5.2 miles per hour at impact. (Dkt. 29 at
2.3.) The posted speed limit for the section of Highway 12
where the collision occurred was 50 miles per hour.
Plaintiff's expert determined also Ms. Grossklaus was
riding the bicycle within 1.1 feet from the roadway's fog
line at the time of impact. Id. She was wearing a
bicycle helmet. (Dkt. 32-5 at 2.) However, the precise
location Ms. Grossklaus was riding on the roadway at the time
of impact is a contested fact to be determined by the jury in
officers from the Idaho State Police were dispatched to the
site of the collision. (Dkt. 32-3 at 2.) The Clearwater
County chief deputy and Orofino police sergeant also arrived
on scene. Id. Ms. Grossklaus's body was taken
into custody by the Clearwater County Coroner, William
Rambeau. Mr. Rambeau produced a report, the contents of which
will be discussed in further detail below as it relates in
part to Plaintiff's motion in limine.
15, 2016, Carla Danielle Grossklaus Kucirek, the personal
representative for the estate and heirs of Theresa Ann
Grossklaus, filed a complaint in the District Court of the
Second Judicial District of Idaho. Amended on December 23,
2016, Plaintiff's complaint asserts three claims: first,
that Ms. Grossklaus's death was the result of Deputy
Jared's negligence, carelessness, reckless, and grossly
negligent conduct; second, that as employers of Deputy Jared,
Defendants Clearwater County, Clearwater County Sheriff's
Department, and the Clearwater County Sheriff, failed and
neglected to ensure Deputy Jared was properly trained; and
third, Defendants' careless and negligent actions and
omissions violated Ms. Grossklaus's constitutional rights
under 42 U.S.C. §1983.
removed this case to the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§1441. (Dkt. 1.) On January 10, 2018, Defendants filed a
motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. 24), which the
Court granted in part and denied in part. (Dkt. 43.) The
Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as
to the Section 1983 claim asserted against Deputy Jared,
noting, however, the potential for sufficient evidence to be
presented at trial to revive the claim. (See Dkt. 43
at 14 n. 3.) The Court also granted the motion as to the
Monell claims asserted against Clearwater County,
Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, and the
Clearwater County Sheriff. Id. at 15. Finally, the
Court granted the motion as to the state law negligent hiring
claims as well as the claims against Deputy Jared's wife,
Julie. A. Jared. The Court denied Defendants' motion as
to the state law negligence claims asserted against Deputy
Jared. Id. at 16-22. The pending motions in
limine relate to the presentation of evidence regarding
the negligence claims presently set for a jury trial
beginning April 23, 2019.
Motions in Limine
is no express authority for motions in limine in
either the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the Federal
Rules of Evidence. Nevertheless, these motions are well
recognized in practice and by case law. See, e.g., Ohler
v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 (2000). The key
function of a motion in limine is to “exclude
prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually
offered.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38,
motions in limine excluding broad categories of
evidence are disfavored-as such issues are more fairly dealt
with during trial as the admissibility of evidence arises.
Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Co., 519
F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975). Additionally, it is sometimes
necessary to defer ruling until trial when a better estimate
of the impact of the evidence on the jury can be made by the
trial judge. Crawford v. City of Bakersfield, 2016
WL 5870209, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 6, 2016).
Burdens of Proof for Claims and Defenses
claims against Deputy Jared center on establishing his
negligence, which requires meeting the burden of proof on
each of the following elements: (1) Deputy Jared was
negligent; (2) Ms. Grossklaus was injured; (3) Deputy
Jared's negligence was a proximate cause of the injury to
Ms. Grossklaus; and (4) the elements of damage and the
amounts thereof. IDJI 220.127.116.11. The Court anticipates
Defendants' primary defense will be that Ms. Grossklaus
was contributorily negligent. On this defense, the Defendants
have the burden of proof on the following propositions: (1)
Ms. Grossklaus was negligent; and (2) Ms. Grossklaus's
negligence was a proximate cause of her own injuries.
is “the failure to use ordinary care in the management
of one's property or person.” IDJI 2.20. Where
“ordinary care means the care a reasonably careful
person would use under circumstances similar to those shown
by the evidence.” Id. Negligence may consist
of “the failure to do something which a reasonably
careful person would do” or doing “something a
reasonable careful person would not do under circumstances
similar to those shown by the evidence.” It is for the
jury to decide how a reasonably careful person would act
under the circumstances shown by the evidence. Each party
involved in an occurrence has a duty, both before and at the
time of the occurrence, “to use ordinary care for the
safety of both themselves and each other.” IDJI 2.00.2.
cause can be described as the cause, which:
[I]n natural or probable sequence, produced the injury, the
loss or the damage complained of. It need not be the only
cause. It is sufficient if it is a substantial factor in
bringing about the injury, loss or damage. It is not a
proximate cause if the injury, loss or damage likely would
have occurred anyway. There may be one or more proximate
causes of an injury. When the negligent conduct of two or
more persons or entities contributes concurrently as
substantial factors in bringing about an injury, the conduct
of each may be a proximate cause of the injury regardless of
the extent to which each contributes to the injury.
these evidentiary burdens in mind, the Court will analyze the
merits of the parties' motions in limine.
Defendants' Motion in Limine
motion in limine has seven parts. In the seventh
part, Defendants argue Plaintiff's expert witnesses'
testimony should be limited to the opinions within the
content of their reports, citing Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(a)(2)(B)(1). Plaintiff does not contest this
portion of the motion and agrees Plaintiff's experts'
testimony will be so limited. As such, the Court will discuss
only the first six parts of Defendants' motion below.
Carla Kucirek's Testimony
ask the Court to preclude Carla Kucirek, the personal
representative of the estate of Theresa Grossklaus and a
daughter of Theresa Grossklaus, from testifying concerning
medications her mother had or had not taken on the day of and
days prior to the collision, on July 18, 2014. Defendants
assert Ms. Kucirek “lacks the requisite scientific
qualifications to offer an opinion on the issue.” (Dkt.
50 at 2.) They argue also that Ms. Kucirek lacks first-hand
knowledge that would be required for her to testify as a fact
witness on this issue.
response, Plaintiff argues Defendants have provided no
support for their argument that scientific qualifications are
necessary for Ms. Kucirek to have knowledge of what
medications were prescribed to her mother, what her
mother's habits with respect to taking her medications
were, and the amount of her mother's medication that
remained following the collision at issue. (Dkt. 57 at 2.)
Plaintiff argues these facts fit within the personal
knowledge requirement of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
not cited directly, the Court infers that Plaintiff's
argument references Federal Rule of Evidence 602, which
states that “[a] witness may testify to a matter only
if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding
that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter.”
Fed.R.Evid. 602. Notably, “[e]vidence to prove personal
knowledge may consist of the witness's own testimony.
Id. In other words, “[a] witness has personal
knowledge only when testifying about events perceived through
physical senses or when testifying about opinions rationally
based on personal observation and experience. California
Found. for Indep. Living Centers v. Cty. of Sacramento,
142 F.Supp.3d 1035, 1045 (E.D. Cal. 2015) (citing United
States v. Durham, 464 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2006). Lay
witness testimony is helpful when it assists the jury in
determining a fact in issue. Fed.R.Evid. 701(b). However, lay
witness testimony is unhelpful and thus inadmissible when it
is “mere speculation” or when it “usurps
the jury's function” by telling the finder of fact
what result to reach. United States v. Freeman, 498
F.3d 893, 905 (9th Cir. 2007); see J. Weinstein
& M. Berger, Weinstein's Evidence § 701.03
(2d ed. 2014).
discussed further below in regard to Plaintiff's motion
in limine, evidence regarding Ms. Grossklaus's
mental health status may be probative of whether she was
biking safely when the collision occurred. During the course
of trial, should facts concerning what medication or
medications Ms. Grossklaus had taken the day of the collision
or on the days leading up to the collision become relevant,
the Court finds that Ms. Kucirek may, with proper foundation,
testify as a lay witness about her first hand observations of
what type of medications were in her mother's apartment
immediately after the collision and her first hand
observations of how much of the medications remained untaken.
also seek to exclude Ms. Kucirek's testimony concerning a
conversation she had with an Idaho State Police (ISP)
forensic scientist who allegedly informed her that Ms.
Grossklaus's blood was not tested for the presence of
certain of the medications she was prescribed. Defendants
assert Ms. Kucirek's testimony regarding this
conversation is hearsay. Plaintiff did not respond to this
argument in her response. The Court agrees with Defendants,
however, that Ms. Kucirek's testimony about what the ISP
forensic scientist told her is likely inadmissible hearsay.
Therefore, Defendant's motion is granted in this respect.
Dr. Ogden's Opinions
argue the Court should preclude one of Plaintiff's
experts, Jerry S. Ogden, Ph.D., P.E., from offering opinions
related to the state of mind of Deputy Jared just prior to
the collision, as well as to his opinion related to the legal
permissions Ms. Grossklaus had to ride the bicycle at the
location of the collision. In response, Plaintiff argues
Defendants fail to challenge either the facts relied upon by
Dr. Ogden or the methodology he used to reach his opinions.
challenge the following specific opinions provided by Dr.
Ogden in his expert report:
It can be stated to within a reasonable degree of engineering
probability that the position of the right-side wheels of the
Dodge at or very near the edge of the roadway at impact
clearly indicates the Dodge driver had not considered the
presence of the bicycle ...