United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
JEREMI J. FONTENOT
WILLIAM RODOLFO GONZALEZ, ET AL.
KATHLEEN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is a Motion in Limine [doc. 26] filed by plaintiff
Jeremi J. Fontenot (“Fontenot”), seeking to
prohibit William Rodolfo Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”)
and Hudson Insurance Company (“Hudson) (collectively,
“defendants”) from mentioning or introducing any
evidence on certain topics at trial. Defendants oppose the
motion, and Fontenot has filed a reply. Docs. 34, 38.
action relates to a motor vehicle accident between Fontenot
and Gonzalez on June 21, 2015, in Calcasieu Parish,
Louisiana. Doc. 1, att. 1, pp. 1-2. Fontenot filed suit in
the Fourteenth Judicial District, Calcasieu Parish,
Louisiana, and Hudson subsequently removed the action to this
court on the basis of federal diversity jurisdiction, 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. 1, att. 1, pp. 1-4; doc. 1. On
September 14, 2017, the court granted Fontenot's
unopposed motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of
liability. Doc. 25; see docs. 19, 22 (motion and
response). Accordingly, it is settled that the subject
accident was due to Gonzalez's negligence and the only
issue to be decided at trial in this matter is the amount of
damages owed to Fontenot.
Rule 104(a) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, “[t]he
court must decide any preliminary questions about whether a
witness is qualified, a privilege exists, or evidence is
admissible. In so deciding, the court is not bound by
evidence rules, except those on privilege.”
brings this motion to exclude evidence or mention of the
following topics at trial: 1) his prior arrests and
misdemeanor conviction; 2) his prior drug and alcohol usage;
3) evidence not made known during discovery; 4) the fact that
Fontenot retained an attorney shortly after the accident; 5)
the fact that Fontenot's medical bills have been paid; 6)
the fact that any award is not taxable under federal and
state income tax laws; 7) Fontenot's failure to call
anyone on his witness list; 8) attorney file documents; 9)
financial impact to defendants of an adverse verdict; 10)
probable testimony of an absent witness; and 11) the fact
that Fontenot has filed this motion. Defendants oppose the
motion in all respects. Doc. 34.
Prior arrests and conviction
admits that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of
attempted possession of drug paraphernalia in the Fourteenth
Judicial District Court, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, on July
28, 2015. Doc. 26, att. 1, p. 1. The parties also state that
he has been arrested as a result of disagreements with his
father. Id.; doc. 34, pp. 1-2. Fontenot argues that
evidence of the arrests and conviction should be excluded
under Federal Rule of Evidence 609 and because its probative
value is substantially outweighed by the potential for
prejudice, under Rule 403.
609 sets the limits on uses of a criminal conviction to
attack a witness's character for truthfulness, and
provides generally that a criminal conviction may not be used
for that purpose unless it is a felony or the court can
readily determine from the elements that it involved a
dishonest act or false statement. Fed.R.Evid. 609(a). The
defendants contend, however, that they would not seek to
introduce this evidence to attack Fontenot's credibility.
Doc. 34, p. 4. Instead, they would use it to refute his
allegations that his injuries in the accident have led to
behavioral difficulties, by showing that his behavioral
issues (as expressed through fights with his father) preceded
the accident. Id.
this portion of the motion should be analyzed under Rule
404(b), which allows evidence of prior wrongdoings for
purposes other than proving the person's character in
order to show that he acted in conformity with that
character. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). However, evidence of a
prior bad act may be admissible “for another
purpose.” Id. at 404(b)(2). In such cases
the court must first determine whether the evidence is
relevant to an issue other than character, and then ensure
that its probative value is not substantially outweighed by
its potential for undue prejudice. United States v.
Cervantes, 706 F.3d 603, 615 (5th Cir. 2013).
the defendants argue that the prior bad acts are admissible
to rebut a damages claim. They do not provide any citation
for their allegation that behavioral problems are part of
Fontenot's claimed damages. See doc. 34, p. 4.
However, Fontenot's complaint shows that he has alleged
injuries including “[s]evere head injuries and
trauma” and “[s]evere nervous shock.” Doc.
1, att. 1, p. 3. He also claims damages for, inter alia,
“physical and mental pain, suffering, discomfort,
anxiety, distress, disability, disfigurement and
inconvenience.” Id. In his interrogatory
answers, Fontenot listed three treating psychologists as
possible witnesses and admitted that he has been prescribed
several medications since the accident, including sedatives
and antidepressants.Id. at 12-14. Thus, as defendants
argue, arrests relating to arguments with a family member,
introduced to show that Fontenot's psychological issues
preceded the accident, are both relevant to this issue and