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Feagins v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 20, 2017

SUSAN FEAGINS AND ANTIONNE FEAGINS
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC.

          RULING AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION IN LIMINE

          JUDGE JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (Doc. 21), which is opposed (Doc. 23). The Court, after considering the briefing and arguments of counsel, the law and evidence being in favor thereof, grants in part, denies in part, and defers in part this motion.

         This case involves a disputed slip and fall injury which allegedly occurred at Defendant's store on July 21, 2015. Trial is set for October 2, 2017. Plaintiffs' motion seeks to have the Court exclude the following:

1. Any and all evidence of and/or reference to medical expense payment sources, including but not limited to, payments made by Plaintiffs['] attorneys, and any future collateral sources, such as health insurance;
2. Any argument or commentary relating to anti-lawyer and anti-lawsuit sentiment;
3. Any and all evidence of, mentioning, reference to, and/or eliciting testimony of evidence in connection to the possible tax ramifications on plaintiff;
4. Any evidence of prior criminal history;
5. Any evidence of prior claims or lawsuits;
6. Any evidence requested, but not produced in discovery, specifically including a purported second angle of video surveillance taken on the day of the incident in question. (Doc. 21 at 1-2.) The court will consider each of these separately.

         Attorney Payments of Plaintiff's Medical Bills

         In summary, Plaintiffs argue that “[w]hile not a true ‘collateral source' in the literal sense, the funding of a plaintiff's medical treatment by his or her attorney is akin to the rule and courts have held that attorney funded medical treatment should be withheld from the jury.” (Doc. 21-1 at 2 (citing Francis v. Brown, 95-1241, pp. 9-10 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/20/96); 671 So.2d 1041, 1047-48) (“ To allow a jury to hear evidence that plaintiff's attorney provided the funds for her medical expenses only fanned the flames of the prejudice that now exists against civil litigants and their attorneys.”)).)

         Defendant argues: “Plaintiff's counsel's payment of her medical bills has bearing on the credibility of Plaintiff's healthcare provider[.]” (Doc. 23 at 1.) In support of its position, Defendant cites Tiemann v. Graff, 478 So.2d 1267, 1270 (La.App. 5 Cir 11/12/85) (questioning the plaintiff's treating physician about a billing agreement with counsel “was relevant and not improper…” because “[a]n attorney is entitled to impeach his opponents witness.”). (Doc. 23 at 1.) Defendant also points the Court to Hoffman v. 21st Century North America Insurance Co., 2014-2279, p. 6 (La. 10/2/15); 209 So.3d 702, 2015 WL 5776131. (Doc. 23 at 2.)

         Despite Plaintiffs' statement that payment by the attorney of his client's medical bill is not, “strictly speaking” a collateral source, this is precisely the ground upon which the court in Francis found that the evidence had been improperly admitted. The Court also agrees with Plaintiffs and the court in Francis that any possible probative value connected to counsel's payment of the medical bills is outweighed by unfair prejudice, and it is thus excluded. To this extent, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

         Both cases cited by Defendant deal with a “billing arrangement” between counsel for the plaintiff and the treating doctor which might in this case, for the reasons cited in both cases, be admitted. However, this is not what Plaintiffs seek to exclude. If Defendant has evidence of some billing agreement between counsel for Plaintiffs and the testifying physician, the Court would likely allow such questioning. Because this is not the subject of the present motion, if Defendant intends to pursue such a line of questions, ...


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