United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER AND OPINION
matter is before the court pursuant to Defendants'
Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, Ltd. and The Goodyear
Tire and Company's (collectively
“Defendants”) Motion in Limine (ECF No. 102).
Plaintiffs Maria Davenport, Arnold Davenport, Demorio
Davenport, and Devon Davenport (collectively
“Plaintiffs”) filed a response in opposition to
Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 121). For the reasons set
forth below, the court GRANTS IN PART and
DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion in
Limine (ECF No. 102).
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
September 18, 2015, Plaintiffs Maria Davenport, Arnold
Davenport, and Demorio Davenport filed a Complaint against
Defendants. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff Maria Davenport alleged
she suffered injuries while she was driving a 1996 Ford
Explorer when the tread on the left rear tire (“Subject
Tire”) separated from the car, causing it to overturn.
(Id.) Plaintiff Demorio Davenport was a passenger in
the car, and he alleges that he suffered injuries during the
incident. (Id.) Plaintiffs Maria and Demorio
Davenport allege causes of action for negligence, strict
liability, and breach of warranty. (Id. at 1-4.)
Plaintiff Arnold Davenport alleges loss of consortium.
(Id. at 2.) On August 2, 2016, Defendants filed a
Motion to Consolidate both cases. (ECF No. 34.) On October
25, 2016, the court granted Defendants' Motion to
Consolidate for all purposes, including trial. (ECF No. 46 at
present Motion, Defendants request that the court prevent
Plaintiffs from offering any evidence or argument about or
including: (1) post-manufacture design changes, (2) incidents
that are not substantially similar, (3) subsequent remedial
measures or changes, and (4) Defendants' duty to warn.
(ECF No. 102.) Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition to
Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 121), and Defendants filed an
omnibus reply (ECF No. 133).
purpose of a motion in limine is to allow a court to rule on
evidentiary issues in advance of trial in order to avoid
delay, ensure an even-handed and expeditious trial, and focus
the issues the jury will consider.” United States
v. Dylann Storm Roof, No. 2:15-472-RMG, 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 185415, at *2 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2016) (internal
citations omitted). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 401,
evidence is relevant if it has “any tendency” to
make a fact of consequence to the issues in question
“more or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. Federal Rule of Evidence
403 provides that evidence may be excluded if its probative
value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair
prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, waste of time or needless cumulative evidence.
Fed.R.Evid. 403. Evidence should be construed in the
“light most favorable to its proponent, maximizing its
probative value and minimizing its prejudicial effect.”
United States v. Salazar, 338 F.Appx. 338, 343-44
(4th Cir. 2009) (citing United States v. Simpson,
910 F.2d 154, 157 (4th Cir. 1990)). Prejudicial evidence is
excluded to protect the jury from drawing improper
inferences. Mullen v. Princess Anne Volunteer Fire
Co., 853 F.2d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1988) (“All
relevant evidence is ‘prejudicial' in the sense
that it may prejudice the party against whom it is admitted.
Rule 403, however, is concerned only with ‘unfair'
prejudice. That is, the possibility that the evidence will
excite the jury to make a decision on the basis of a factor
unrelated to the issues properly before it.”).
Evidence Related to Post Manufacture Changes
move to prevent the introduction of testimony and evidence
relating to design changes occurring after the manufacture of
the Subject Tire. (ECF No. 102 at 2-3.) Specifically,
Defendants object to the introduction by Plaintiffs'
expert witness, Dennis Carlson, of information relating to
the warnings in June of 2001, 2005, and 2006. (Id.
at 3.) Defendants argue that this testimony (1) is prevented
by the relevant South Carolina law, as described in
Branham v. Ford Motor Co., 390 S.C 203 (2010); (2)
is not relevant as required by Federal Rule of Evidence 402;
and (3) should be excluded because its probative value is
substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice.
(Id.) Plaintiffs contend that the testimony is
admissible under Branham, which states that
“whether a product is defective must be measured
against information known at the time the product was placed
in the stream of commerce, ” and that Defendants'
Motion is not sufficiently specific. 390 S.C. at 225; (ECF
No. 121 at 2-3.)
court has already addressed Mr. Carlson's warning opinion
and found that he can testify on these matters. (See
ECF No. 137). However, Mr. Carlson is limited to testifying
on what information was known at the time the product was
placed in the stream of commerce. Therefore, Defendants'
Motion is DENIED as moot.
Evidence without Substantial Similarity
seek to exclude all evidence related to incidents that are
not substantially similar to the present case. (ECF No. 102
at 3.) Plaintiffs respond that the Motion is not specific and
does not give Plaintiffs adequate opportunity to respond.
(ECF No. 121 at 3.)
motion in limine should be granted only when the evidence is
clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. E.g.,
Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664
(7th Cir. 2002); United States v. Verges, No.
1:13-cr-222 (JCC) 2014 WL 559573, at *3 (E.D. Va. Feb. 12,
2014). Defendants' Motion was not sufficiently specific
regarding the evidence that should be excluded to allow the
court to make a determination on this issue. The court will
not prematurely deprive Plaintiffs of their ability to
present evidence in this case. Hawthorne Partners v.
ATT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D.
Ill. 1993) (“[E]videntiary rulings should be deferred
until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and
potential prejudice may be resolved in proper
context.”). Accordingly, Defendants' second Motion
in Limine is DENIED.
Evidence Related to Subsequent Remedial ...