United States District Court, D. Delaware
GREGORY F. ROBINSON Plaintiff,
SGT. WILFRED BECKLES, et al. Defendants.
R. Fallon, Judge
Wilmington this 12th day of June, 2019, the court
having considered the briefs and arguments presented by the
parties regarding plaintiff Gregory F. Robinson's
("Mr. Robinson") three motions in limine,
and having ruled on these motions in the pretrial conference,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: (1) Plaintiffs Motion in
Limine #1 regarding the policy and Standard Operating
Procedure ("SOP") for logbooks is granted-in-part
(D.I. 247, Ex. 2); (2) Plaintiffs Motion in Limine
#2 to request an adverse inference following defendants'
failure to provide photographs of plaintiff s allegedly
stained shoe is denied without prejudice (D.I. 247, Ex. 3);
and (3) Plaintiffs Motion in Limine #3 to request
the exclusion of Lester Boney's ("Mr. Boney")
conclusions in his memorandum of investigation is denied
without prejudice (D.I. 247, Ex. 4).
motion in limine is filed pre-trial and requests
that the Court "prohibit opposing counsel from referring
to or offering evidence on matters prejudicial to the moving
party." Laufen Int'l, Inc. v. Larry J. Lint
Floor & Wall Covering, Co., 2012 WL 1458209, at *1
(W.D. Pa. Apr. 27, 2012). The purpose of a motion in
limine is to bar "irrelevant, inadmissible, and
prejudicial" issues from being introduced at trial, thus
"narrow[ing] the evidentiary issues for trial[.]"
Id. Evidence should not be excluded pursuant to a
motion in limine, unless it is clearly inadmissible
on all potential grounds. See Laws v. Stevens Transport,
Inc., 2013 WL 4858653, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 11, 2013);
Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, Inc. v. Bryan, 2010 WL
5393864, at *1 (W.D. La. Dec. 22, 2010); Knowles Elec,
LLC v. Microtronic U.S., Inc., 2000 WL 310305, at *1
(N.D. 111. Mar. 24, 2000). The movant bears the burden of
demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any
relevant ground, and the court may deny a motion in
limine when it lacks the necessary specificity with
respect to the evidence to be excluded. See Berry v.
Mission Grp. Kan., Inc., 2010 WL 2160897, at *1 (D. Kan.
May 28, 2010); Pivot Point Int'l, Inc. v. Charlene
Prods., Inc., 1996 WL 284940, at *3 (N.D. Ill. May 23,
1996). Evidentiary rulings, especially ones that encompass
broad classes of evidence, should generally be deferred until
trial to allow for the resolution of questions of foundation,
relevancy, and potential prejudice in proper context. See
Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, 2010 WL 5393864, at *1;
Diehl v. Blaw-Knox, 2002 WL 34371510, at *1 (M.D.
Pa. July 15, 2002); Knowles Elec, 2000 WL 310305, at
*1; Leonard v. Stemtech Health Sciences, Inc., 981
F.Supp.2d 273, 276 (D.Del. 2013).
Motion in Limine #1.
requests re-opening discovery to obtain the policy and SOP
regarding logbooks. Plaintiff argues that the policy and SOP
produced by defendants have effective dates post-dating the
alleged incidents in 2008 and 2009,  and that the policy and SOP
effective in 2008 and 2009 should be produced. Defendants,
Wilfred Beckles ("Beckles"), Angelina DeAllie
("DeAllie") and Veronica Downing
("Downing") (collectively, "defendants"),
have informed plaintiff that they are unable to locate
earlier versions of the policy and SOP regarding logbooks
that were effective in 2008 and 2009. The court denies
plaintiffs request to reopen discovery.
Plaintiff further seeks to preclude defendants from arguing
that the effective dates of the policies and SOP produced are
inapplicable to 2008 and 2009, when the alleged incidents in
issue occurred. The SOP of September 20, 2013 regarding
logbooks states that "[t]his document is a complete
re-write which supersedes and replaces all previous
editions." (D.I. 247-2, Ex. 3) Defendants produced the
SOP in discovery without any explanation that the SOP was not
representative of the procedures in effect at the time of the
incidents which are the subject of the litigation. Plaintiff
prepared his case in reliance on the production and there is
no reasonable basis on the eve of trial for defendants to
argue that the SOP is no longer relevant to the claims in
issue. Therefore, plaintiffs Motion in Limine #1 is
Motion in Limine #2.
requests an adverse inference as a sanction for
defendants' alleged spoliation of evidence, namely
photographs of plaintiff s shoes allegedly stained by
CapStun. Plaintiff alleges that on July 10, 2009, defendant,
DeAllie, sprayed plaintiff and his cell with CapStun spray.
(D.I. 247 at 3; 247-3 at 1-3) The incident is disputed by
defendant, DeAllie, and therefore, plaintiff seeks to
introduce into evidence photographs of his stained shoes in
support of his claim. Plaintiff argues that when he was
interviewed following the alleged incident, Internal Affairs
Investigator Lester Boney ("Mr. Boney") took
photographs of his shoes that were stained by CapStun. Mr.
Boney has since filed a declaration, stating that he never
took photographs of Mr. Robinson's shoes. Plaintiff
contends that Mr. Boney's declaration is a sham
declaration and that his correctional expert, Michael
McCreanor ("Mr. McCreanor") opined that Mr. Boney
should have taken photographs in the course of his
Spoliation of evidence arises where "the evidence was in
the party's control; the evidence is relevant to the
claims or defenses in the case; there has been actual
suppression or withholding of evidence; and, the duty to
preserve the evidence was reasonably foreseeable to the
party." Wagner v. Sea Esta Motel I, C.A. No.
13-81-RGA, 2014 WL 4247731, at *1 (D. Del. Aug. 26, 2014).
Courts look to three factors when determining whether to
impose a sanction for the spoliation of evidence: "(1)
the degree of fault of the party who altered or destroyed the
evidence; (2) the degree of prejudice suffered by the
opposing party; and (3) whether there is a lesser sanction
that will avoid substantial unfairness to the opposing party
and, where the offending party is seriously at fault, will
serve to deter such conduct by others in the future."
Id. (citing Schmid v. Milwaukee Elec. Tool
Corp., 13 F.3d 76, 79 (3d Cir. 1994)). "An adverse
inference is an extreme remedy for the alleged spoliation of
evidence." Accurso v. Infra-Red Services, Inc.,
169 F.Supp.3d 612, 618 (E.D. Pa. 2016) (citing McAdams v.
U.S., 297 Fed.Appx. 183, 187 (3d Cir. 2008)).
Plaintiff has not provided evidence that photographs of his
shoes were ever taken or exist, and defendants contend that
they are unaware of any such photographs and that they
provided all materials from Mr. Boney's
file. If such photographs never existed in the
first place, it cannot be said that defendants suppressed,
withheld, or destroyed this evidence. As defendants noted,
plaintiff had the opportunity during discovery to pursue the
issue but did not raise the issue with the court, nor move to
compel production of the purported photographs.
similarly, does not provide any support for his contention
that Mr. Boney's declaration is a sham declaration.
Therefore, plaintiffs Motion in Limine #2 is denied
Motion in Limine #3.
seeks to preclude defendants from identifying or arguing that
any of the conclusions set forth in Mr. Boney's
Memorandum to Warden Perry Phelps dated August 10, 2009 (the
"Boney Memo") are established facts. (D.I. 243-3,
Ex. 4) Plaintiff argues that Mr. Boney is not an expert
witness and the conclusions in the Boney Memo are based on
expert opinions. The parties' arguments stem from their
desire to refrain from calling Mr. Boney to testify at trial,
and, to instead rely on the introduction into evidence of the
Boney Memo itself. In the absence of either side designating
Investigator Lester Boney in expert ...