C. Gill, Esq. Law Office of Edward C. Gill, & Associates.
C. Malatesta, Jr., Esq. Kent & McBride, P.C.
E. O'Neill, Esq. Four Penn Center.
letter order addresses Plaintiff Robert Bangs'
(hereinafter "Mr. Bangs'") recently filed
motion in limine. By previous letter order, the
Court ruled on other motions raised by the Defendants Diana
and Dawn Follin (hereinafter "Follin
Defendants"). Trial in this matter is scheduled to begin
on January 23, 2017. It involves Mr. Bangs' claim that he
fell through a hole in the residence that he previously
rented from the Follin Defendants. The Follin Defendants
claim that Mr. Bangs falsified his injury claim because of
his need for money and because of legal and other
disagreements with them.
preparation for trial, the parties shared proposed trial
exhibits and disagreements persist. Mr. Bangs sought leave to
file this additional motion in limine addressing
certain common objections to the Follin Defendants'
exhibits. His motion, however, also separately lists
foundational and other objections to the majority of the
Follin Defendants' forty-three trial exhibits.
Order, the Court will address Mr. Bangs' primary
objections that (1) evidence of poverty is not relevant or
admissible to support an inference that Defendant
manufactured a false claim against the Follin Defendants; (2)
Delaware Rule of Evidence ("DRE") 404(b) poverty
related evidence offered to show separate relevance such as
motive, opportunity, preparation and plan is inadmissible;
and (3) the expert reports are inadmissible. For the reasons
discussed below, evidence of Mr. Bangs' economic means is
inadmissible for any purpose. Furthermore, the expert reports
are likewise inadmissible. However, the Court does not agree
with Mr. Bangs' contention that evidence offered pursuant
to DRE 404(b) cannot be relevant under any circumstances. The
Court will reserve decision regarding that issue, as well as
Mr. Bangs' other objections including relevance, DRE 403,
foundation, discovery violations, and hearsay. More
evidentiary context is necessary prior to the Court's
decision on those issues.
of Mr. Bangs' Poverty Offered to Show Motive to Falsify a
Claim is Inadmissible
reviewing the motion, response, and the exhibits, the Court
finds that evidence of Mr. Bangs' poverty offered for the
purposes of proving his alleged motive to manufacture a claim
is at most marginally relevant to any fact of consequence.
Nevertheless, if there is any relevance to such evidence, it
is inadmissible pursuant to DRE 403 because any such
relevance would be substantially outweighed by the risk of
unfair prejudice or confusing the issues. Furthermore, in
considering evidence of economic means offered for a purpose
advanced pursuant to DRE 404(b), DRE 403 also separately
requires exclusion at trial of any such evidence .
generally recognize, in the context of criminal cases, that
poverty is not admissible to show that a person is more
likely to commit a crime because of need.Likewise, evidence
of poverty is no more relevant in the civil context to
establish the likelihood that a person experiencing financial
difficulties is somehow more likely to falsify a personal
injury claim. In balancing any marginal relevance in a
civil claim, where money compensation for pain and suffering
is the only recourse permitted, the Court finds an even
greater risk of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues
than in the criminal context. Any arguably marginal relevance
would be substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice to Mr. Bangs.
of the exhibits offered by the Follin Defendants are clearly
offered solely for this purpose and are accordingly barred
from admission at trial. These include Defendant's
Exhibit No. 4 which is a letter "To Whom it may
concern" asking for charitable assistance, and
Defendant's Exhibit No. 10 which is a notice of a social
security hearing. These exhibits are offered only to
establish Plaintiff's poverty and are therefore not
admissible pursuant to DRE 403. Additionally, Follin
Defendants' Exhibit No. 21 is alleged to be Mr.
Bangs' letter to Catholic Charities requesting assistance
and is likewise inadmissible for the same reason. Finally,
Defendants' Exhibit No. 25, which includes liens and
judgments due against Mr. Bangs, is also inadmissible.
to the extent any of the other exhibits or other evidence are
offered to establish poverty, even to prove a separate
relevance contemplated by DRE 404(b), they are likewise
inadmissible pursuant to DRE 403. There, any such purported
relevance to an itemized separate purpose in DRE 404(b) would
be substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice
and confusion of the issues.
Court's decision here rests solely on the propriety of
offering evidence regarding Mr. Bangs' economic means.
Absent Mr. Bangs opening the door, such evidence will not be
admissible at trial for any purpose. On the other hand, the
Court reserves decision regarding the admissibility of any
documents or testimony offered to prove the tenancy related
legal disputes between the parties, and the course of the
parties' relationship. Contrary to Mr. Bangs'
argument, although character evidence is inadmissible in
civil matters, DRE 404(b) permits such evidence for purposes
other than character evidence in the civil
context. As such, many of the documents at issue
may be relevant and admissible directly, or separately
admissible for a DRE 404(b) purpose.