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Frazier v. Bickford

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 4, 2017

Jacqueline Elizabeth Frazier, Plaintiff,
v.
Norman Kenneth Bickford and the Webster School District, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on nine motions in limine-four filed by Plaintiff Jacqueline Elizabeth Frazier, (Dkts. 140, 142, 144, 151), and five filed by Defendants Norman Kenneth Bickford and the Webster School District, (Dkts. 158, 160, 163, 166, 169). For the reasons addressed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the parties' motions.

         BACKGROUND

         Frazier suffered injuries on May 29, 2014, when a school bus hit her while she was crossing the street in downtown Minneapolis. Bickford was driving the school bus for the Webster School District. When the accident occurred, Bickford had just dropped off a group of students for a Minnesota Twins baseball game at Target Field. Bickford was following another school bus driver with whom he was in radio contact. Although the lead driver had a map to a parking lot, the two drivers became separated. While trying to find the parking lot, Bickford began turning left from North Second Avenue onto Interstate 394 and struck Frazier, who was walking in the crosswalk while the traffic light was green. Frazier was seriously injured. According to the complaint, Frazier has had at least nine surgeries and continues to have “significant impairments” in her daily life. Frazier sued Bickford and the school district, alleging that Bickford was negligent and that the school district is vicariously liable for her injuries.

         The parties now seek rulings on the admissibility of certain evidence at trial. Both parties move to exclude evidence that Bickford was not issued a traffic citation following the May 29, 2014 accident. Consequently, those motions are granted. Frazier also moves to admit in evidence the Wisconsin Commercial Driver's Manual (Driver's Manual), preclude defense counsel from asking lay witnesses any “possibility” questions, and limit the expert testimony of Defendants' medical expert Dr. Patricia Aletky. Defendants cross-move to exclude the Driver's Manual and move to exclude certain photographs and a video recording taken at the scene of the accident, photographs of Frazier's injuries taken in the hospital, and evidence pertaining to Bickford's driving activity and his discomfort driving in downtown Minneapolis.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Cross-Motions Regarding the Driver's Manual

         In cross-motions, Frazier argues that the Driver's Manual is relevant and admissible evidence; and Defendants argue that the statements in the Driver's Manual are inadmissible hearsay, irrelevant, and unfairly prejudicial. A “statement” is hearsay if it was made out of court and is “offer[ed] in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.” Fed.R.Evid. 801(a), (c). In response to Defendants' argument that the Driver's Manual is inadmissible hearsay, Frazier asserts that the Driver's Manual is admissible evidence under the public records exception to the hearsay rule, [1] and that it is relevant to establish “what Bickford had learned and been tested on regarding driving school buses” and “how Bickford was to safely operate a school bus.”

         On the current record, Frazier has not identified which provisions of the Driver's Manual she seeks to admit in evidence, precisely how any particular provision of the Driver's Manual is relevant to a fact in issue, and whether the purpose for which Frazier intends to use this evidence is to prove the truth of any matter asserted in the Driver's Manual such that it constitutes inadmissible hearsay. Consequently, the Court cannot rule on the admissibility of the Driver's Manual, or any portion thereof, outside the context of trial.

         For these reasons, the Court denies, without prejudice, the parties' cross-motions regarding the admissibility of the Driver's Manual.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Preclude “Possibility” Questions

         Frazier moves to preclude defense counsel from asking lay witnesses any “possibility” questions because such questions call for speculation as to issues on which the witness lacks foundation. Because Frazier does not know what questions defense counsel will ask, nor can the Court predict what those questions will be or whether those questions will elicit an inadmissible answer, any ruling on this motion would be speculative and advisory. Thus, Frazier's motion is premature. Should the circumstances warrant, the Court will entertain objections to such questions in the context of trial.

         Accordingly, the Court denies, without prejudice, Frazier's motion to preclude questions that call for speculation.

         III. Plaintiff's Motion to Limit Expert Testimony of ...


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