United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is Defendants' fully-briefed motion in
limine. (DE 61; DE 63; DE 69). Defendants seek to
exclude evidence and testimony of: (1) Defendant's, the
Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”), 2010
settlement of discrimination claim filed by Dwight Loveless
(“Loveless”); (2) the VA's internal posting
of an air-conditioning mechanic vacancy in 2015; (3)
Plaintiff's, Ralph Anderson, Jr.
(“Anderson”), alleged front pay and back pay
damages; and (4) punitive damages. For the reasons stated
below, Defendants' motion will be GRANTED IN PART.
before the Court is Anderson's motion in limine
(DE 58; DE 59), seeking to exclude evidence related to the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's final decision
on his 2009 complaint, and Defendants' response (DE 66).
For the reasons stated below, Anderson's motion will be
NATURE OF AN ORDER IN LIMINE
district courts have the power to exclude evidence in
limine pursuant to their authority to manage
trials.” Dartey v. Ford Motor Co., 104
F.Supp.2d 1017, 1020 (N.D. Ind. 2000) (citation omitted).
“A court's rulings in limine are preliminary in
nature and subject to change.” Zander v.
Orlich, No. 2:14-CV-400-PRC, 2017 WL 2972452, at *1
(N.D. Ind. July 12, 2017); see United States v.
Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989) (emphasizing
that an order either granting or denying a motion in limine
is “a preliminary decision . . . subject to change
based upon the court's exposure to the evidence at
trial”). Indeed, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
has noted that rulings on motions in limine may
change “when the case unfolds, particularly if the
actual testimony differs from what was contained in the
proffer.” Connelly, 874 F.2d at 416
(“[E]ven if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the
district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial
discretion, to alter a previous in limine
of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all
evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at
trial.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT & T Techs.,
Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1401 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Instead,
an “order on a motion in limine is essentially an
advisory opinion, merely speculative in effect.”
Watts v. Schuh, No. 1:12-CV-137, 2014 WL 1259946, at
*1 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 26, 2014) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
DEFENDANTS' MOTION IN LIMINE
Evidence of Loveless's Settlement
argue that the Court should exclude evidence and testimony
regarding Loveless and his settlement of a global claim of
discrimination, including age discrimination, in 2010,
because Loveless was not similarly situated to Anderson.
Loveless, a Caucasian employed by the VA as a housekeeper,
received a permanent air-conditioning mechanic position in
his 2010 settlement, while Anderson received a two-year
air-conditioning mechanic position in the settlement of his
2009 discrimination claim.
are considered to be similarly situated for employment
discrimination claims when they are directly comparable in
all material respects.” Gage. v. Metro. Water
Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chi., 365 F.Supp.2d 919,
934 (N.D. Ill. 2005); see Monroe v. Ind. Dep't of
Transp., 871 F.3d 495, 507 (7th Cir. 2017)
(“Generally, a plaintiff must show that his comparators
dealt with the same supervisor, were subject to the same
standards and had engaged in similar conduct without such
differentiating or mitigating circumstances as would
distinguish their conduct or the employer's treatment of
them.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)).
argues that he and Loveless were similarly situated because
they “both filed discrimination complaints within one
(1) year of each other” and “Brian Flynn approved
both settlements.” (DE 63 at 2). But Anderson does not
dispute Defendants' observation that the decision makers
in Anderson's 2009 settlement agreement and
Loveless's 2010 settlement agreement were different
people. Nor does Anderson dispute Defendants' point that
while Flynn, the VA's human resources manager, did
approve both settlements, his role was merely clerical in
that he simply filled out paperwork after the agreement had
been made and did not participate in the decision-making
process. Moreover, Flynn had retired by 2012 (DE 59 at 3), so
he was not involved in deselecting Anderson in 2012, which is
the adverse employment action at issue in this case. Nor does
Anderson suggest, much less point to evidence, that Loveless
and Anderson dealt with the same supervisor, were subject to
the same standards, or were comparable in all material
respects. See, e.g., Gage, 365 F.Supp.2d at
934-35 (granting defendant's motion in limine as
to evidence of non-similarly situated employees, where such
employees did not hold the same position as the plaintiff and
did not work under the same supervisor).
Defendants assert, if Anderson were allowed to present
evidence concerning Loveless and his 2010 settlement, then
Defendants would present evidence that Loveless was not
similarly situated, which would create a trial within a
trial. It is important to remember that the sole issue before
the jury is whether the VA's decision to deselect
Anderson in 2012 was based on racial animus or was in
retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination. Anderson
may not at this juncture attempt to litigate the terms of his
2009 settlement agreement, as this would likely result in
confusion of the issues by the jury, mini-trials, and a waste
of judicial resources. See, e.g., Soller v.
Moore, 84 F.3d 964, 968 (7th Cir. 1996) (recognizing the
need to prevent a “trial within a trial”);
Sims v. Mulcahy, 902 F.2d 524, 531 (7th Cir. 1990)
(“Exclusion of evidence under Rule 403 is . . .
important to avoid significant litigation on issues that are
collateral to those required to be tried.”). In short,
the little probative value of Loveless's 2010 settlement
agreement is substantially outweighed by the risk of jury
confusion and that the case will devolve into mini-trials
concerning the particular circumstances of Loveless's
2010 settlement and Anderson's 2009 settlement.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 403. Accordingly, Defendants' motion in
limine will be GRANTED as to testimony and evidence
regarding Loveless's settlement agreement.
Evidence of the VA's 2015 Vacancy
Defendants argue that the Court should exclude evidence that
the VA posted a vacancy for an air-conditioning mechanic from
March 23, 2015, to April 10, 2015, which was open to internal
personnel only. Anderson responds that the VA posted this
position only internally even after the time period for doing
so required by the collective bargaining agreement had
expired, and thus, the general public was never given an
opportunity to apply for this position, which violates the
VA's policy. (DE 63 at 3-4). ...