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Edson v. Dreyer & Reinbold, Inc.

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

May 23, 2017

KARLA EDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DREYER & REINBOLD, INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Karla Edson's (“Edson”) Motions in Limine (Filing No. 75; Filing No. 76), and Defendant Dreyer & Reinbold, Inc.'s (“DRI”) Motion in Limine (Filing No. 69), to exclude certain evidence and testimony at trial. In her Motions in Limine, Edson seeks to prohibit DRI from introducing certain evidence or eliciting evidence regarding two topics, and in its Motion in Limine, DRI asks the Court to exclude evidence that falls within five specific categories. For the following reasons, Edson's Motions in Limine are denied, and DRI's Motion in Limine is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         DRI is a car dealership that sells BMW, Infiniti, Mini, Subaru and Volkswagen vehicles. Edson worked for DRI's Greenwood, Indiana location for more than nine years. The Greenwood dealership has four separate service drives, one dedicated to each of the four car brands. Since April 4, 2006, Edson held the position of Appointment Coordinator for the Volkswagen and Subaru service drives. James Kizer (“Kizer”), the dealership's Service Manager, supervised Edson.

         In March 2015, Kizer planned to eliminate Edson's position and create two service greeter positions: one for the Volkswagen drive and the other for the Subaru drive. The service greeters' duties entailed scheduling appointments, greeting customers, arranging for alternate transportation for customers, and serving as support staff to the service advisors. Kizer initially intended to transition Edson into one of the new service greeter positions. However, Joe Bradshaw, a third party contractor hired to service DRI's telephone system, informed Edson that she was being moved to the Volkswagen Service Drive. Edson, who previously worked in the Volkswagen service drive, stated that she would quit if transferred to that specific drive. Edson repeated the same sentiments to Leo Vandenbosch, Kizer's assistant manager.

         On April 2, 2015, Kizer transferred Stephanie Bowman (“Bowman”) to the Subaru service drive and on April 14, 2015, he interviewed Julia Denham (“Denham”) for a service greeter position. On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Edson suffered a stroke at work. The following day, Kizer hired Denham for the Volkswagen service drive position. Edson returned to work the following Monday, but suffered difficulty walking, balancing and speaking. Edson's physician required her to undergo physical therapy. Upon returning to work, Edson provided Kizer with a schedule of her physical therapy appointments, which required her to leave early on Wednesdays. Edson was also approved for intermittent leave due to her serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Kizer was not receptive to Edson's missing work and questioned how long the appointments would take and whether Edson could schedule the appointments during her lunch hour or after work. (Filing No. 42-1 at 16.) On April 23, 2015, Edson spoke with Brian Gauker (“Gauker”), DRI's General Manager, about her therapy schedule. Gauker remarked: “Well, you know, the owner would want us to be . . . compassionate in these situations but we still have to run a business . . . you're going to have all these other employees that are going, well, how come she only has to work 40 hours a week and I can't just work 40 hours a week.” (Filing No. 38-1 at 27.)

         On May 11, 2015, approximately three weeks after her stroke, Edson advised Kizer that she would need to use a “scooter” at work due to her disability and difficulty walking. She described the scooter as a walker with wheels. (Filing No. 42-1 at 16.) Kizer asked on two occasions about the appearance of the scooter and its arrival because he worried that the scooter would not fit the company's image. Id. at 18. Two days later, Edson arrived at work with the scooter. Later that morning, Kizer asked Edson to meet with him and Rita Kahn, the office manager. Kizer then informed Edson that DRI restructured the staffing of its service drives and eliminated her position as Appointment Coordinator for both the Volkswagen and Subaru drives. In response, Edson stated: “Wait. So you mean to tell me that after nine years of faithful service to this company, that you have no other place that you can put me?” Kizer replied: “Well, we already filled the position on the Volkswagen drive and the Subaru drive.” Kizer continued by stating: “And now”- while gesturing at Edson's scooter. Id. at 21. Following the termination meeting, Edson collected her personal belongings and left the dealership.

         On August 19, 2015, Edson filed an Amended Complaint against DRI, asserting discrimination and retaliation claims pursuant to FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Filing No. 15.) Edson seeks compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages. Id. at 5.

         On May 5, 2016, DRI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, contending that Edson's claims fail as a matter of law and no genuine issue of material fact exists because Kizer planned to terminate Edson prior to her suffering a stroke. (Filing No. 36.) On December 13, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered his Report and Recommendation denying DRI's Motion for Summary Judgment, concluding a reasonable jury could find that DRI terminated Edson due to her disability. (Filing No. 55.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge found: 1) Kizer's gesture at Edson's scooter when terminating Edson, 2) Kizer's and Gauker's statements regarding Edson's need for therapy, and 3) the timing of Edson's termination, collectively, are a sufficient basis which a reasonable jury could conclude that DRI terminated Edson for discriminatory reasons.

         DRI objected to the Report and Recommendation but, on February 1, 2017, the Court overruled DRI's objections and adopted the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (Filing No. 59.) Accordingly, both Edson's FMLA and ADA claims remain for trial.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “[J]udges have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions during trial or before on motions in limine.” Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court excludes evidence on a motion in limine only if the evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose. See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless evidence meets this exacting standard, evidentiary rulings must be deferred until trial so questions of foundation, relevancy, and prejudice may be resolved in context. Id. at 1400- 01. Moreover, denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion is admissible; rather, it only means that, at the pretrial stage, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence should be excluded. Id. at 1401.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Each party has requested an order in limine to prohibit the introduction of certain testimony and evidence at trial. The Court ...


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