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Hamdan v. Indiana University Health North Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 11, 2015

TALAL S. HAMDAN, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY HEALTH NORTH HOSPITAL, INC., Defendant.

ENTRY ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on the parties' motions in limine. The motions are fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, resolves them as set forth below.

The Court notes that the granting of a motion in limine is not a final ruling regarding the admissibility of the evidence at issue. Rather, it simply prohibits any party from eliciting testimony regarding or otherwise mentioning a particular issue during trial without first seeking leave of Court outside of the presence of the jury. Therefore, a party who wishes to elicit testimony or introduce evidence regarding a topic covered by a motion in limine that has been granted should request a sidebar conference during the appropriate point in the trial, at which time the Court will determine how best to proceed. Parties should always err on the side of caution and interpret rulings on motions in limine broadly, requesting sidebars before eliciting testimony or offering evidence that is even arguably covered by a ruling in limine and avoiding mention of such topics during voir dire, opening statements and closing argument. Counsel shall also carefully instruct each witness regarding subjects that should not be mentioned or alluded to during testimony unless and until a finding of admissibility is made by the Court.

Plaintiff's Motions in Limine

1. Plaintiff's Religion (Dkt. No. 196)

Dr. Hamdan "requests the Court to enter an Order barring discussion or cross-examination by the Hospital's counsel or testimony by its witnesses about [his] Muslim faith or religion, or that he or his parents or family are practicing Muslims." Dkt. No. 196 at 1. He argues that "religion [is] not at issue in this case" and there exists a "danger of hard-to-detect prejudice against Muslims that might exist in the jury pool." Id. at 1-2. This motion is DENIED.

It is true that § 1981 does not encompass discrimination based on religion; however, this does not mean that Dr. Hamdan's religion is irrelevant to the case. The allegedly-discriminatory comments made by the Cath Lab employees include a mix of racial and religious comments, e.g., "Middle Eastern Muslims." As the Hospital notes, "[t]he jury must be allowed to consider all of the evidence and alternatives in order to put the whole story together as to what was happening in the Cath Lab[.]" Dkt. No. 212 at 4.

The Court also notes that Dr. Hamdan will have ample opportunity during voir dire to question potential jurors about their potential bias towards his religion.

2. Contractual Relationship (Dkt. No. 197)

Dr. Hamdan "requests the Court to enter an Order barring discussion or crossexamination by counsel or testimony by witnesses suggesting, implying, or tending to create an inference that there was not a contractual relationship between Dr. Hamdan and the Hospital, as that term is used in 42 U.S.C. §1981, as amended." Dkt. No. 197 at 1. The Hospital "has no objection to Hamdan's Second Motion in Limine so long as the Hospital's right to appeal the Court's Entry on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment is preserved." Dkt. No. 213 at 1. Accordingly, this motion is GRANTED.

3. Information not Previously Considered or Relied Upon (Dkt. No. 198)

Dr. Hamdan seeks to exclude any discussion, cross-examination, or testimony "about any conduct or action (including inaction) of Dr. Hamdan, whether behavioral or clinical, unless the conduct or action (including inaction) had been considered or relied upon by the PA&I Committee or the MEC in issuing the two Adverse Action Letters, and made known to Dr. Hamdan." Dkt. No. 198 at 1. He argues that "evidence or remark[s] outside the peer review process and not considered during the peer review process cannot be relevant to any element of Dr. Hamdan's civil rights claim." Id. at 2.

It appears to the Court that the Hospital may use this evidence for impeachment purposes. It notes that Dr. Hamdan's experts will testify "as to his purported glowing professional reputation" that has been tarnished as a result of the peer review process. Dr. Hamdan has likened this to a "black mark" on his record. The Court agrees with the Hospital that

[i]f Hamdan continues to assert at trial that the Hospital's confidential peer review process left a permanent "black mark" which damaged his reputation and diminished his future earning capacity, the Hospital is certainly permitted to admit evidence of other potential causes of damage to Hamdan's reputation, including evidence of problems he had at other institutions before and after the Hospital's peer review.

Dkt. No. 211 at 2. Accordingly, this motion is DENIED.

4. Earlier Lawsuit against Cath Lab Personnel (Dkt. No. 199)

Hamdan seeks to exclude evidence that he filed a lawsuit against the Cath Lab employees in August 2011; he later voluntarily dismissed this lawsuit. He argues that this evidence is irrelevant and would unfairly portray him "as a litigious fellow[.]" Dkt. No. 199 at 2. The Hospital has no objection to this motion so long as its motion in limine "seeking to preclude admission of the Hearing Transcript and DC Findings is granted[.]" Dkt. No. 214 at 3.

The Court disagrees that this evidence unfairly portrays him as a litigious fellow; indeed the Hospital notes that it "has never alleged or argued that Hamdan has a litigious character and would not make such a suggestion if the Cath Lab Complaint is admitted into evidence." Id. at 2. That said, the Court is still unclear as to how this evidence is relevant. In light of the Court's ruling below regarding the Designated Committee Report and Recommendation, if the Hospital seeks to admit evidence of the lawsuit Dr. Hamdan filed against the Cath Lab employees at trial, it should request a sidebar conference before doing so to discuss the relevancy with the Court.

5. Palestinian versus Middle-Eastern Descent (Dkt. No. 200)

Dr. Hamdan seeks to exclude any discussion, cross-examination, or testimony "about the fact that [he] is Palestinian (as opposed to Middle-Eastern descent), or that his parents have returned to Palestine to live, or that Dr. Hamdan has from time-to-time visited his parents there." Dkt. No. 200 at 1. He argues that "his connection to the region in the Middle-East commonly referred to as Palestine, ' as opposed to some other country or region in the Middle-East, is not a central or even relevant fact" and that "the terms ...


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