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Taylor v. Cheddar's Casual Cafe, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

January 13, 2017

CHERYL L. TAYLOR
v.
CHEDDAR'S CASUAL CAFÉ, INC.

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Cheryl L. Taylor's (“Taylor”) Motion in Limine (Record Document 29). In the Motion, Taylor seeks an order prohibiting Defendant Cheddar's Casual Café, Inc. (“Cheddar's”) from “presenting, mentioning, referencing, or introducing” three different pieces of evidence in the trial of the above-captioned matter. Record Document 29. For the reasons contained herein, the Motion in Limine is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Taylor is a natural person domiciled in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. See Record Document 1-2. Cheddar's is a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Delaware with its principal place of business in the state of Texas. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 2(A)(2). On August 15, 2013, Taylor alleges that she slipped and fell on a puddle of water by the fish tank at Cheddar's' restaurant in Shreveport. See Record Document 1-2. Taylor alleges that Cheddar's failed to warn customers of the presence of the water, that employees of Cheddar's knew or should have known of the presence of the water on the floor, and that these employees failed to protect Cheddar's' customers. See id. Taylor subsequently filed bankruptcy on September 4, 2013. See Record Document 32-4.

         Ellis Young (“Young”) was an employee of Cheddar's who was working at the Shreveport location of Cheddar's at the time of Taylor's fall. See Record Documents 32- 1, 32-2, and 32-3. Two insurance adjusters interviewed Young after Taylor's fall. See Record Documents 32-2 and 32-3. These adjusters testified in their depositions that in those interviews, Young told them that there was no water on the floor where Taylor slipped. See id. Evidently, Cheddar's manager subsequently fired Young based on allegations that he had been stealing from Cheddar's. See Record Documents 29 and 32. Young later testified in his October 1, 2015, deposition that there was liquid from spilled drinks on the floor where Taylor had slipped and fallen. See Record Document 32-3.[1]

         Taylor originally filed the instant action on March 12, 2014, in the First Judicial District Court of Caddo Parish, Louisiana. See Record Document 1-2 at 4. On March 11, 2015, Cheddar's removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See Record Document 1. On March 31, 2016, Taylor filed the instant Motion in Limine. See Record Document 29. On April 7, 2016, Cheddar's filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion in Limine with attached exhibits. See Record Document 32.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Taylor's Motion in Limine seeks an order prohibiting Cheddar's from “presenting, mentioning, referencing, or introducing” three different pieces of evidence in the trial of the instant action: (1) Young's alleged theft from Cheddar's; (2) Taylor's bankruptcy filing and subsequent proceedings; and (3) any statements made by Young to Cheddar's, its representatives, or its insurance company representatives after the fall. Record Document 29. Cheddar's opposes the Motion for all three pieces of evidence. See Record Document 32.

         A. Young's Alleged Theft from Cheddar's

         Taylor argues that evidence of Young's alleged theft from Cheddar's is inadmissible because Young was neither charged with nor convicted of a crime based on this allegation. See Record Document 29-1. Thus, the reason for Young's dismissal from Cheddar's is not admissible as extrinsic evidence of character for untruthfulness under Federal Rule of Evidence 609. Taylor also argues that “defendant should not be allowed to backdoor evidence of an alleged theft for the purpose of attacking credibility” and that “defendant cannot attempt to introduce this evidence for the sole purpose of attacking Mr. Young's credibility” under Rule 608. Id. Taylor cites to U.S. v. Ferrell, 625 F.Supp. 41, 44 (E.D. Pa. 1985), for the proposition that “Rule 608 precludes evidence that is offered solely to prove that a witness has been untruthful. It does not limit a party's introducing extrinsic evidence that may have the effect of generally impugning a witness's credibility, but is offered for some other relevant purpose.” Id. According to Taylor, there is no other relevant purpose for the admission of this evidence, so it is not admissible. See id.

         Cheddar's argues that these facts are admissible as potential evidence of bias, particularly considering that there is some evidence indicating that Young changed his story about Taylor's fall after his termination from Cheddar's. See Record Document 32. Cheddar's cites to United States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45 (1984), for the proposition that extrinsic evidence of a witness' possible bias against a party is relevant evidence that is generally admissible.

         Cheddar's' argument is correct. Extrinsic evidence of Young's firing by Cheddar's and the reason for which he was fired (the alleged theft) is not admissible as evidence of a prior criminal conviction under Rule 609, as Young was never convicted of a crime. It may not be admissible under Rule 608 as evidence of a prior act demonstrating Young's character for untruthfulness. The Court need not decide that question, however, as Cheddar's has identified another “relevant purpose” for which this evidence is admissible: attacking Young's credibility by demonstrating that he may be biased against Cheddar's. See Ferrell, 625 F.Supp. at 44.

         In Abel, the Supreme Court addressed an argument that allowing the Government to impeach a witness with extrinsic evidence of bias was reversible error. See 469 U.S. at 46-56. The Court explained that though the Federal Rules of Evidence do not have a particular Rule expressly addressing impeachment of a witness for bias, this method of impeachment is nonetheless available to the same extent it was available prior to the promulgation of the Rules. See id. at 49-51. Regarding extrinsic evidence of bias, the Court explained that “the ‘common law of evidence' allowed the showing of bias by extrinsic evidence, while requiring the cross-examiner to ‘take the answer of the witness' with respect to less favored forms of impeachment.” Id. at 52. Evidence that Cheddar's fired Young because of alleged theft is probative of Young's possible bias against Cheddar's; Young could be biased because of the allegation of theft, the firing, or both. Thus, Cheddar's has ...


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