United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION AND ORDER
TO EXCLUDE TRAFFIC CITATION EVIDENCE
W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is the Motion in Limine to Exclude Traffic Citation
Evidence by KLLM Transport Services LLC (“KLLM”)
and Great West Casualty Company (“Great West”;
collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. 30.) The motion
is opposed by plaintiff Nicole Lynn Baxter
(“Plaintiff” or “Baxter”). (Doc. 33.)
Defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. 41.) For the reasons
which follow, Defendants' motion is granted in part and
deferred in part.
BACKGROUND AND ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES
case arises out of an automobile accident which occurred in
West Baton Rouge Parish on March 10, 2015 between an 18 wheel
tractor-trailer owned by KLLM and being driven by its
employee Jason Anderson (“Anderson”), and a motor
vehicle being driven by Plaintiff. (See Doc. 30-1 at
1-2 and Doc. 33-2, Ex. A attached thereto, as well as Doc.
33-1 at 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges Anderson negligently drove
his tractor/trailer onto the shoulder of the highway and then
negligently collided with Plaintiff's vehicle traveling
in the same direction. (Doc. 33-1 at 1-2.) Liability is
the accident, Port Allen police officer Reginald Mims issued
a citation to Anderson for a violation of “La. R.S.
32:74(B) Driving on Shoulder of Road”. (Doc. 33-3 at
2.) The certified minutes of the Port Allen City Court show
that Anderson pled guilty to “La. R.S. 32:296, Driving
on Shoulder, ” (Doc. 33-3 at 1) and paid the ticket.
(Doc. 30-1 at 2; Doc. 33-3 at 3-4.)
seek to exclude evidence of the citation and Anderson's
payment of the ticket. Defendants argue that Louisiana law
controls the issue of whether the citation or Anderson's
payment of the ticket is admissible. (Doc. 30-1 at 4-5
(citing Conway v. Chemical Leaman Tank Lines, Inc.,
540 F.2d 838 (5th Cir. 1976).) Plaintiff does not disagree.
(Doc. 33-1 at 3-4 (citing Louisiana cases in support of its
position on the motion).) Defendants argue that Anderson paid
the ticket in order to avoid the inconvenience and cost of
returning to Louisiana, some 700 miles from his home, and
therefore the ticket does not constitute a guilty plea and is
not admissible against him. (Doc. 30-1 at 6-7 (citing
Maricle v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 04-1149 (La.App. 3
Cir. 3/2/05); 898 So.2d 565, 572, and Iglinsky v.
Player, No. 08-650, 2010 WL 4925000, at *6 (M.D. La.
July 16, 2010), report and recommendation adopted,
No. 08-650, 2010 WL 4905984 (M.D. La. Nov. 24, 2010)).) Even
if admissible, Defendants contend that the probative value is
outweighed by its prejudicial effect. (Doc. 30-1 at 7-8
(citing Phillips v. Roofers Mart Southeast, Inc. No.
09-3691, 2010 WL 4924769 (E.D. La. Nov. 29, 2010)).)
responds that Anderson did plead guilty (citing to
Doc. 33-3, the certified minutes from Port Allen City Court)
and that said “guilty plea can be deemed an admission
against interest relevant to show fault in a civil action
arising from the accident.” (Doc. 33-1 at 3 (citing
Shephard ex. rel. Shephard v. Scheeler, 96-1690 (La.
10/21/97); 701 So.2d 1308, 1319; Romano v.
Altentaler, 2011-0303 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/14/11); 77 So.3d
282; American Med. Enters., Inc. v. Audubon Ins.
Co., 05-2006 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/08/07); 964 So.2d 1022,
1029; and Harris v. Dunn, 45, 619 (La.App. 2 Cir.
9/22/10); 48 So.3d 367, 372).) In any event, Plaintiff should
be allowed to impeach his testimony with the ticket, in the
event Anderson denies fault in his sworn testimony, as
Plaintiff expects. (Doc. 33-1 at 4.)
their Reply Memorandum, Defendants repeat earlier arguments
but, in addition, maintain that the records of the City Court
of Port Allen show that Anderson pled guilty only to La. Rev.
Stat. § 32:1304, “EXPIRED MVI.” (Doc. 41 at
2-3 (citing to Doc. 33-3 at 1).)
sides agree that Louisiana law controls the issues before the
Court. Under Louisiana law, it is clear that Officer
Mims' citation to Anderson is not admissible.
Ruthardt v. Tennant, 215 So.2d 805, 807-808, 252 La.
1041, 1047 (La. 1968). Plaintiff does not argue otherwise.
This part of Defendants' motion is granted.
issue of Anderson's payment of the ticket is more
problematic. Plaintiff is correct that a guilty plea is an
admission against interest that is relevant to proving fault
in a civil case. Shephard ex. rel. Shephard, 701
So.2d at 1308; Romano, 77 So.3d 282; Am. Med.
Enters., Inc., 964 So.2d at 1029; Harris, 48
So.3d at 372. Even though the expressed reason for pleading
guilty and paying the ticket may be “to avoid going to
court and [his] intent was not to admit guilt of the action
alleged . . .” this is nonetheless considered an
admission although it is not conclusive on the issue of
fault. Hopkins v. Nola, 46, 114 (La.App. 2 Cir.
3/9/11); 58 So.3d 1075, 1078, 1081 n.2.
payment of the fine alone without more may not necessarily be
considered a guilty plea. See, e, g., Snider v. N.H. Ins.
Co., No. 14-2132, 2016 WL 3278865 (E.D. La. June 15,
2016) (distinguishing Hopkins “because in
Hopkins, the plaintiff herself paid the traffic
citation she received…” whereas, in
Snider, the defendant's daughter paid it for him
while he was hospitalized.); Maricle, 898 So.2d at
572; Iglinsky, 2010 WL 4925000, at *6.
the evidence is confusing and contradictory. In his
affidavit, Anderson maintains he paid the fine for
convenience only. (Doc. 30-1, Ex. B.) The citation itself
shows he was cited for violating La. Rev. Stat. §
32:74(B), (Doc. 33-3 at 2) but the certified minutes of the
Port Allen City Court (Doc. 33-3 at 1) shows “Defendant
pled guilty to 32:296 at the traffic violation bureau. Defendant
waived right to trial.” Other records seem to confirm
this is why he paid the fine. (Doc. 33-3 at 3.) This suggests
that it was indeed Anderson's intent to plead guilty.
Yet, Doc. 33-3 at 1 also shows that “charge of 32:296
was changed to 32:1304” (expired inspection sticker).
impossible on this record to resolve these conflicts in the
evidence. The Court will defer this part of Defendants'
motion to a hearing to be held on the morning of trial
outside the presence of the jury. If the Plaintiff is able to
show that Anderson pled guilty to either La. Rev. Stat.
§ 32:74(B) or La. Rev. Stat. § 32:296, the evidence
will be admitted. If the Plaintiff is unable to show that