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Dunn v. Marquette Transportation Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 7, 2017

KELVIN DUNN
v.
MARQUETTE TRANSPORTATION CO., LLC

         SECTION "L" (5)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion in limine, R. Doc. 29, to exclude various evidence from the bench trial in this matter scheduled to begin Monday, July 10, 2017. Defendant timely responds. R. Doc. 31. Having reviewed the parties' arguments and applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this Jones Act Claim to recover damages for personal injuries he sustained after a slip and fall while working for Defendant. R. Doc. 1 at 1-2. According to Plaintiff, on August 21, 2015, Kelvin Dunn was employed by Defendant Marquette Transportation Company as a boat captain on the M/V ST. RITA. R. Doc. 1 at 1-2. While off-duty, he was alerted to a fuel leak in the engine room of the vessel. R. Doc. 1 at 2. When he went to investigate the problem, he climbed down the stairs and entered the engine room, and slipped on a substance on the floor resulting in numerous fractures to his hip and/or femur, which required emergency surgery, as well as injuries to his lumbar spine. R. Doc. 1 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that his injuries were caused by Defendant's negligence and unseaworthiness of the vessel. R. Doc. 1 at 3.

         Plaintiff seeks past, present and future damages for lost wages and earning capacity, physical and mental pain and suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life, medical expenses, loss of found, and disfigurement, as well as any other damages recoverable under the law. R. Doc. 1 at 4. Plaintiff also seek payments for maintenance and cure, in the event these payments are not timely made, in addition to punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs. R. Doc. 1 at 5.

         Defendant timely answers, and alleges that Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. R. Doc. 5 at 1. Defendant admits that Plaintiff was a Jones Act Seaman, employed by Defendant, and was a crew member on a vessel in navigable waters. R. Doc. 5 at 2. Defendant denies all other allegations. R. Doc. 5 at 2. Defendant raises several affirmative defenses, including failure to mitigate, comparative fault, third party negligence, and the limitation of liability defense. R. Doc. 5 at 3. Further, Defendant argues that the vessel was not unseaworthy, it has acted reasonably in regard to maintenance and cure obligations, and was not negligent in the maintenance of the vessel. R. Doc. 5 at 4.

         II. PRESENT MOTIONS

         Plaintiff has filed a Motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence at the upcoming bench trial. R. Doc. 29. First, Plaintiff seeks to exclude any evidence of his 1998 DWI conviction and resulting prison sentence. Plaintiff argues that this information is irrelevant; and even if it were relevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 402, it would be excluded under Rule 403, as the prejudicial nature of this evidence far outweighs any substantive value. Defendant responds that this conviction is relevant, as Plaintiff's prior criminal record could impact his future employment opportunities and therefore damages in this case. R. Doc. 31.

         Second, Plaintiff argues that any evidence regarding the anti-anxiety medication he was prescribed is inadmissible. R. Doc. 29. According to Plaintiff, Defendant was aware of his medical condition, and Plaintiff never took the prescribed medication while on the vessel. Defendant argues that this evidence is relevant to show Plaintiff's credibility and whether his reaction to the fuel leak on the day of the accident was reasonable. Further, Defendant argues that because this medication would have disqualified Plaintiff from employment as a caption, the evidence is relevant to evaluate his future earning potential. R. Doc. 31.

         Third, Plaintiff seeks to exclude any reference to how health insurance could reduce Plaintiff's future medical expenses. R. Doc. 29. Plaintiff argues that this possible future benefit is speculative, barred by the collateral source doctrine, and irrelevant, as Defendant is required to provide for his medical expenses under the doctrine of maintenance and cure. Defendant argues that because healthcare coverage is mandatory under the Affordable Care Act, Plaintiff will be required to obtain insurance coverage, which will necessarily decrease his future medical expenses. R. Doc. 31.

         Finally, Plaintiff argues that Defendant should be barred from raising the affirmative defense of the primary duty doctrine, as it does not apply in this case. R. Doc. 29. According to Plaintiff, the primary duty doctrine only bars a plaintiff's recovery when he is injured solely as a result of his own breach of a duty he consciously assumed in his employment duties. Thus, he avers it does not apply to this case, and should be excluded from trial. Defendant disagrees. According to Defendant, the primary duty doctrine does apply in this case, as Plaintiff was injured as a result of his own negligence. R. Doc. 31.

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         a. Evidence of 1998 DWI conviction

         Under the Federal Rules, relevant evidence is generally admissible. Relevance is defined as having any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, and the fact is of consequence in determining the action. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402. However, even relevant evidence may be excluded “if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting ...


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