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Blevins v. Gaming Entertainment (Indiana) LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

July 2, 2019

TAMMY BLEVINS, Plaintiff,
v.
GAMING ENTERTAINMENT (INDIANA) LLC d/b/a RISING STAR CASINO RESORT, and FULL HOUSE RESORTS, INC. d/b/a RISING STAR CASINO RESORT, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on three motions in limine filed by Defendants Gaming Entertainment (Indiana), LLC d/b/a Rising Star Casino Resort, and Full House Resorts, Inc. d/b/a Rising Star Casino Resort (collectively, “Rising Star”), in particular, Motion in Limine to Exclude Lay Opinion Testimony of Stephanie Blevins (Filing No. 59), Motion in Limine to Limit Plaintiff's Testimony (Filing No. 60), and Motion in Limine to Prevent Introduction of Incident Reports for Prior Accidents (Filing No. 61). Blevins has not responded to the Motions in Limine. For the following reasons, Rising Star's Motions in Limine are either granted and denied.

         I. DISCUSSION

         This lawsuit concerns Blevins' fall from a stool while gambling at Rising Star's casino and her subsequent injury. Blevins alleges Rising Star was negligent in failing to take steps to protect her, an invitee, from being injured due to a dangerous stool or stools on their property. At the time of the incident, Blevins's daughter, Stephanie Blevins (“Stephanie”), was accompanying her at the casino, but Stephanie testified that she did not see what caused her mother to fall as it was happening. Following the incident, Blevins filed this action and the matter is schedule for trial on July 29, 2019. Blevins' Final Exhibit List includes fourteen (14) incident reports associated with other injuries incurred at Rising Star's casino. (Filing No. 40.) The incident reports “detail[] incidents in which other guests of the Defendant casino fell while using stools provided by the casino.” (Filing No. 61 at 4.) Rising Star seeks to limit and exclude testimony and evidence related to the following matters.

         A. Motion In Limine To Exclude Lay Opinion Testimony Of Stephanie Blevins (Filing No. 59)

         At the time of the incident, Blevins's daughter, Stephanie, had accompanied her to the casino; however, Stephanie testified in deposition that she did not see what caused her mother to fall as it was happening. Rising Star seeks to exclude the unsupported and uncorroborated lay opinions of Stephanie, regarding the issue of causation. (Filing No. 59.) In support of its Motion, Rising Star argues that despite not seeing what caused her mother to fall, Stephanie offered an opinion of the “style” or design defects of the stool that allegedly caused the fall. Id. at 3. Rising Star argues that Stephanie did not personally witness her mother fall, therefore, her testimony does not comply with Federal Rule of Evidence 602. Id. at 2.

         Under Rule 602, a witness may only testify to a matter of which she has personal knowledge. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may consist of the witness' own testimony. Rising Star alleges that Stephanie has no reliable basis for her opinion regarding the stool or its design. Id. at 4. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 701, if a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is: (a) rationally based on the witness' perception; (b) helpful to clearly understand the witness' testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.

         When asked, “Other than the style of the chair, did you observe anything about the chair that appeared to be defective in any way?” Stephanie answered, “No.” Id. at 3. When asked, “Did you personally, observe any indication of the chair being loose in any way?” Stephanie answered, “I don't remember looking at the chair like in depth looking for issues of the chair. I was concerned about my mom.” Id. Finally, when asked “So you don't have any personal knowledge of the stool being loose at all?” Stephanie answered, “No I do not.” Id. at 3. (See Stephanie Blevins' Depo. P 13 L 23 - P 15 L12.)

         Stephanie's testimony demonstrates that she did not personally witness the fall or inspect the chair after the fall occurred. Because she lacks personal knowledge of the relevant facts, she is not qualified to give lay testimony under Rule 602. For that reason, Rising Star's Motion in Limine to Exclude Lay Opinion Testimony of Stephanie Blevins (Filing No. 59) is granted. The Court will exclude Stephanie's testimony at trial as it relates to alleged design or style defects to the stool Blevins was sitting on.

         B. Motion to limit Blevins' Testimony (Filing No. 60)

         Rising Star anticipates that Blevins will offer testimony or argument that the stool she was seated on was “wobbly” or “unstable.” Id. at 2. It seeks to limit and/or preclude testimony or argument regarding the condition of the stool at the time of the incident because no evidence has been presented demonstrating the stool was in fact, “wobbly” or “unstable” at any time prior to the fall. (Filing No. 60.) When asked if she noticed the stool to be “wobbly” before sitting on it, Blevins admits she did not. Id. at 3. Rising Star argues Blevins' belief that the stool was faulty and “wobbly” or “unstable” occurred after the chair had fallen to the floor. Id. at 4. They contend testimony regarding the nature of the stool after the incident had already occurred could prejudice the jury. Id.

         Under Federal Rule of Evidence 602, a witness may testify to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may consist of the witness' own testimony. Blevins stated that the stool was faulty and that it was “very wobbly.” Id. at 2. When asked, “… di[d] you, personally, see or observe the chair to be wobbly?” Blevins answered, “No.” Id. at 3. And when asked, “… The description that you provided of the chair being very wobbly, … is that based on the fact that you fell when you sat in it?” Ms. Blevins answered. “Yes.” Id.

         There may be inconsistencies in how Blevins described the stool, however those inconsistencies go toward the weight and not admissibility of this evidence. Court finds that Blevins possessed the personal knowledge required to comply with Rule 602. Blevins' testimony that the stool was wobbly is based on how the stool felt when she sat on it and when she fell off of it. The Rules of Evidence allow Blevins to testify about her experiences as she perceived them.

         For that reason, Rising Star's Motion in Limine to Limit Plaintiff's ...


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