United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. NYE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
before the Court are Plaintiff Heath Layton's Motions in
Limine (Dkt. 24) and Defendant Eagle Rock Timber, Inc.'s
(“ERT”) Motions in Limine (Dkt. 34).
reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the
facts and legal arguments are adequately presented.
Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and
because the Court finds that the decisional process would not
be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will
decide the Motions without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc.
Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons outlined below, the
Court will GRANT in PART and DENY in PART each Motion.
a construction company located in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Layton
is a former employee of ERT who worked primarily as a project
manager. Layton contends that he became disabled when he
injured his ankle off the job in March 2018. Layton alleges
that ERT terminated him because of his disability even though
he could still perform the essential functions of his job.
ERT, on the other hand, claims that Layton resigned his
employment even though the company wanted him to stay.
his termination, Layton filed a Charge of Discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) and the Idaho Human Rights Commission,
alleging that ERT terminated him because of his disability.
After an investigation, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to
14, 2017, Layton filed suit against ERT alleging a single
cause of action: disability discrimination in violation of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Neither party filed any discovery motions, nor were
dispositive motions filed at any time.
anticipation of the upcoming trial, and pursuant to the
Court's trial order (Dkt. 22), both parties filed motions
in limine seeking to preclude certain evidence and testimony
at trial. The Court will address each motion in turn.
in limine are well-established devices that streamline trials
and settle evidentiary disputes in advance, so that trials
are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of
lengthy and complex evidentiary issues.” Miller v.
Lemhi Cty., No. 4:15-CV-00156-DCN, 2018 WL 1144970, at
*1 (D. Idaho Mar. 2, 2018) (citing United States v.
Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002)). “The
term ‘in limine' means ‘at the outset.' A
motion in limine is a procedural mechanism to limit in
advance testimony or evidence in a particular area.”
United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th
Cir. 2009) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 803 (8th ed.
“[a]n in limine order precluding the admission of
evidence or testimony is an evidentiary ruling, ”
United States v. Komisaruk, 885 F.2d 490, 493 (9th
Cir. 1989) (citation omitted) “a district court has
discretion in ruling on a motion in limine.” United
States v. Ravel, 930 F.2d 721, 726 (9th Cir. 1991).
Further, in limine rulings are preliminary and, therefore,
“are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always
change his mind during the course of a trial.”
Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3
Plaintiff's Motions in
in PART, DENIED in PART.
first Motion in Limine, Layton asks the Court for an order
prohibiting any mention of-or evidence related to-his arrest
for driving under the influence (“DUI”) in
September 2015. Layton asserts that this episode is
irrelevant to the claims at issue and would be highly
prejudicial if presented to a jury. In contrast, ERT believes
that this event is relevant and that it will actually benefit
Layton if addressed.
of explanation, this incident occurred while Layton was
working for ERT on various projects in North Dakota. At some
point during his tenure there, Layton was arrested for
driving under the influence while operating a company
vehicle. Eventually, Layton entered into a plea agreement for
reckless driving. His commercial driver's license
(“CDL”) was subsequently suspended.
Federal Rule of Evidence 403, the Court must weigh the
competing interest of (1) the probative value of any
evidence, and (2) whether prejudice, confusion, delay, or
other dangers will result if it is introduced.
“Applying Rule 403 to determine if evidence is
prejudicial . . . requires a fact-intensive, context-specific
inquiry.” Sprint/United Management Co. v.
Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 386 (2008). A Court has broad
discretion in this inquiry. See Ruvalcaba v. City of Los
Angeles, 64 F.3d 1323, 1328 (9th Cir. 1995).
ERT asserts that it does not seek to impugn Layton's
character with this evidence, but to bolster its argument
that even with a DUI charge and CDL suspension, it wanted to
keep Layton as an employee because of his work on various
projects. Under Rule 403, the Court finds that this
information-while probative-would be highly prejudicial.
Layton's DUI charge has little to do with the case at
bar. This situation does not corroborate or disprove whether
Layton had a disability, whether ERT accommodated his
disability, nor illustrate how his employment with ERT ended.
Additionally, ERT's behavior relative to Layton's DUI
charge and CDL suspension is not necessarily indicative of
its behavior during the time of their
separation. That said, if, during its case, ERT wishes
to provide testimony that Layton was a valuable employee,
they could simply state that even when he lost his CDL at one
point, they kept him on; however, no details of why he lost
his CDL need be given.
ERT contends that Layton needs this evidence to support one
of his claims. After Layton and ERT parted ways, he obtained
a job with a company called Fisher Construction. Layton
claims that he lost that job, in part, because the company
found out about his past DUI charge and that this information
could have only come from ERT. Eventually, Layton obtained a
new job at the Idaho National Laboratory (“INL”).
of the current action, Layton is claiming lost wages from the
time he lost his job with Fischer until he started at the
INL. Layton claims-not as an official cause of action, but in
support of his other claims-that ERT retaliated against him,
tampered with his personnel file, and tipped off Fisher
Construction to his prior DUI charge.
claim does appear speculative-after all Fisher Construction
could have received the same information from a simple
background check-but Layton is free to present his testimony
and ERT is free to refute that testimony.
the Court will not allow Layton to open the door to an
interference/retaliation argument without some detail.
Therefore, Layton must understand that if he presents
testimony concerning lost wages from his time at Fisher
Construction or claims ERT somehow was involved in
retaliatory, or tampering, conduct, the DUI charge will
likely come in as ERT must be allowed a fair opportunity to
short, this Motion is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART. The
Court will not allow into evidence any testimony concerning
the DUI charge. If ERT desires to say that Layton was a good
employee who they supported, they can simply say that even
when he lost his CDL, they kept him on. Second, if Layton
wishes to pursue his position that ERT tampered with his
file, retaliated against him in tipping off Fisher
Construction to his DUI, or that ERT is responsible for lost
wages because of his being let go from Fisher Construction,
that is his prerogative. The ramifications of that, however,
are that the DUI situation will most likely come in, as ERT
will have to defend itself against such claims.
ERT's Affirmative Defenses
Motion, Layton seeks an order prohibiting ERT from presenting
evidence or facts in support of six of the eight affirmative
defenses it raised in its Answer. Dkt. 3. Layton's
purported reason for such a request is that, in his
estimation, these defenses “have no facts supporting
them or are completely irrelevant.” Dkt. 24, at 3. This
request is somewhat difficult to address.
to date, the Court's involvement has been extremely
limited in this case, as neither party filed any discovery
motions or dispositive motions. The sole motion filed in this
case related to reimbursement of certain costs and fees
associated with a failed mediation. In short, the Court has
made no formal rulings that affect either the law or the
facts of this case and is simply not in a position to rule on
the legality, or factual support, of ERT's defenses as
this particular motion appears akin to a motion for summary
judgment in that Layton is asking the Court to find, as a
matter of law, that ERT's defenses are invalid. As just
noted, while the Court does not have the background to make
such a determination, a motion in limine is also not the
appropriate forum for such a request. If Layton wanted a firm
ruling on ERT's affirmative defenses (or even simply to
strike them), he should have petitioned the Court via an
be sure, some of ERT's affirmative defenses are purely
legal in nature (such as ERT's first affirmative defense:
failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12). A defense such as this would have been dealt
with in legal motions before the Court and not at trial
before a jury-but, again, that was not done ...