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Hale v. Wood Group PSN Inc.

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

January 12, 2018

ORVEL P. HALE
v.
WOOD GROUP PSN, INC., ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING AND ORDER

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST, UNITED STATE MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion Reurging and Seeking a Pretrial Ruling on Orvel P. Hale's Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Evidence [Doc. 100] filed by the plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale. The motion is opposed by defendants ENI Operating Co., Inc., Bordelon Marine, LLC, and Wood Group PSN, Inc. [Doc. 110]. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         The instant case is relatively simple in its factual presentation. The plaintiff alleges he was injured during a basket transfer from the M/V WES BORDELON to the Vermilion 313C on June 3, 2014. The plaintiff has alleged claims of negligence against the various defendants for, inter alia, failing to provide hand-held radios; failing to properly conduct a job safety analysis; and directing that the personnel transfer go forward in bad weather. The defendants have asserted there is no liability on their parts or, alternatively, that the plaintiff was injured because of his own contributory negligence.

         The pending motion seeks to exclude the plaintiff's post-accident urine drug screen test on grounds the evidence is not relevant to any of the issues in the case and the introduction of such evidence will substantially prejudice the plaintiff despite having no probative value. The plaintiff originally urged this Court to exclude the drug screen in his Motion to Exclude Certain Evidence [Doc. 57]. After consideration of the briefs filed and discussion with counsel at the pre-trial conference, and after indicating that the Court was inclined to grant the motion, the Court ultimately deferred ruling on the motion until trial. Following the pre-trial conference, however, the plaintiff re-urges the motion, asking the Court to issue a pretrial ruling on grounds that deferring will place the plaintiff at an unfair advantage in his trial preparation. The plaintiff argues that several trial issues - including jury selection, opening statements, the order of witnesses, and the presentation of toxicology evidence - are impacted by the Court's determination as to whether the drug screen will be allowed into evidence. In response, the defendants challenge the plaintiff's effort to “exclude all evidence regarding Hale's documented opioid and amphetamine use” (emphasis added). For the reasons that follow, this Court will GRANT the motion, and exclude the post-accident drug screen - and any reference thereto - at issue.

         This Court's determination as to the admissibility of the plaintiff's urine drug screen is guided by the principles contained in Rule 401 and 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Rule 401 states:

         Evidence is relevant if:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

Fed. R. Evid. 401. Rule 403 states:

The court may exclude relevant evidence 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 cumulative evidence.

Fed. R. Evid. 403.

         Here, the plaintiff's post-accident urine drug screen was positive for amphetamine (the plaintiff's prescribed Adderall medication) and opiates (the plaintiff's prescribed Lortab medication). In discovery responses, the defendants have stated that:

Orvel P. Hale did not use proper technique to either step away from the personnel basket or secure himself to the personnel basket, did not use his training likely because of his drug affected cognition, and he left the personnel basket while it was elevated above the deck of the boat.[1]

         Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the defendant's strategy in avoiding liability for the damages occasioned by the basket transfer hinges, at least in part, on the plaintiff's use of ...


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