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Sheng v. Bissonnette

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

May 31, 2019

STEPHANIE C. SHENG, ALEX SHENG, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM A. BISSONNETTE, Defendant. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Intervenor Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS TO EXCLUDE EXPERT TESTIMONY (ECF NOS. 71 & 73)

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE

         This matter is set for trial on September 30, 2019. Intervening Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm), by counsel, filed its Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony, which requests that this Court exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's chiropractic providers that goes beyond the scope of chiropractic practice and causally connects the Plaintiff's medical issues with the subject accident. Defendant Bissonnette also moves to exclude the chiropractors' testimony and joins State Farm's arguments in full. The Court, having considered said Motions, now finds that the Motions should be DENIED, without prejudice, with opportunity for leave to refile when the relevant facts are further developed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Stephanie and Alex Sheng demand judgment for medical expenses, lost wages, and damages for alleged personal injuries suffered by Stephanie Sheng resulting from an automobile accident with the Defendant, William Bissonnette. (ECF No. 5, First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-7.) State Farm intervened in this action and moved to exclude or limit testimony by three of the Plaintiffs' witnesses, chiropractors hired to treat Stephanie Sheng's alleged injuries: Carolyn Fancher, D.C.; Darcy Fox, D.C.; and Merry Harris, D.C. State Farm alleges these witnesses' records discuss medical issues. (See ECF No. 72 at 2, Mem. Supp. Intervening Def.'s Mot. Suppress Expert Test. (hereinafter Def.'s Mem.).) Consequently, State Farm believes these witnesses may testify regarding such issues beyond their area of expertise. Id. However, the testimony by the relevant witnesses has not yet been taken.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Ruling on Motions in Limine

         Included in the district court's inherent authority to manage trials is the broad discretion to rule on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). A ruling on a motion in limine is interlocutory. See Clarett v. Roberts, 657 F.3d 664, 669-71 (7th Cir. 2011). A district court may adjust a motion in limine during the course of a trial. See Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Tr. of Chi., 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41-42 (1984)). A pre-trial ruling denying a motion in limine does not automatically mean that all evidence contested in the motion will be admitted at trial. See United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41) (“Indeed, even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.”). Unless evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose at the time of a motion in limine, final evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so questions of foundation, relevancy, and potential prejudice may be resolved in context. See United States v. Lopez, 161 F.Supp.3d 660, 662 (S.D. Ind. 2015); Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993).

         B. Admission of Expert Testimony

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the principles set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), govern the admission of expert testimony in federal courts, even in diversity cases. C.W. ex rel. Wood v. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827, 834 (7th Cir. 2015). Rule 702 provides, in relevant part:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:
a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles or methods; and
d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the ...

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