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Lawrence v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 19, 2018


         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS


         Defendant Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC (“GLDD”) has filed several objections[1] to plaintiff Earl Lawrence's (“Lawrence”) proposed trial exhibits.[2]After reviewing the exhibits at issue and considering the applicable Federal Rules of Evidence, the Court rules as follows:

         GLDD Employee Personnel Records

         GLDD's first three objections are to the admissibility of records from the personnel files of GLDD employees Rodney Silas (“Silas”), Ruben Zamora (“Zamora”), and Bo Hannegan (“Hannegan”).[3] According to the parties' proposed pretrial order, Silas, Zamora, and Hannegan were present when Lawrence was allegedly injured in connection with the incident underlying this lawsuit.[4]

         GLDD argues that the records are irrelevant.[5] GLDD also argues that the records are inadmissible hearsay, and that this objection cannot be overcome by proper authentication; according to GLDD, the documents have not been authenticated thus far, and Silas, Zamora, and Hannegan are expected to testify via video deposition, so they cannot authenticate the records at trial.[6]

         In response, Lawrence argues that the records are relevant to several issues in dispute, namely “[the] lack of relevant safety training and lack of familiarity and adherence to safety procedures by personnel directly involved in the job at issue in this lawsuit.”[7] Lawrence also argues that authentication of the personnel records is unnecessary because GLDD produced them during discovery.[8] In fact, GLDD objects to several exhibits on improper authentication grounds, and Lawrence's response is the same for each one: without citing any authority, Lawrence states that there is no need to authenticate any document that GLDD produced in response to discovery requests.

         “Authentication of a document is a condition precedent to its admission.” United States v. Ceballos, 789 F.3d 607, 617 (5th Cir. 2015). Under Rule 901 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, “[t]o satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.” Fed.R.Evid. 901(a). Notably, the Fifth Circuit does not require “conclusive proof of authenticity before allowing the admission of disputed evidence.” Ceballos, 789 F.3d at 618 (quoting United States v. Jimenez Lopez, 873 F.2d 769, 772 (5th Cir. 1989)).

         The mere fact that a document was produced by an opposing party during discovery, without more, is not conclusive of the document's authenticity. Elwakin v. Target Media Partners Operating Co., LLC, 901 F.Supp.2d 730, 742 (E.D. La. Oct. 9, 2012) (Roby, M.J.) (citing Railroad Mgmt. Co., L.L.C. v. CFS La. Midstream Co., 428 F.3d 214, 219-20 (5th Cir. 2005)). However, “a document may be authenticated by proof that it was produced in discovery” by the opposing party in combination with other factors, “such as the opposing party's failure to dispute the document's authenticity, the presence of the opposing party's signature, and the [fact that the] opposing party affirmed the truth of the document's contents in its own briefing.” Long v. C.M. Long, Inc., No. 15-2424, 2017 WL 9440685, at *5 (W.D. La. Mar. 15, 2017) (citing Railroad Mgmt. Co., 428 F.3d at 219-20).

         The Court cautions Lawrence that all documents will have to be properly authenticated before they can be admitted into evidence; the mere fact that GLDD produced a document during discovery, alone, will generally not be sufficient. Ultimately, the Court will defer determination of whether records from GLDD employees' personnel files are admissible until trial, at which time it will also address concerns related to Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403.[9]

         Job Description and Physical Demand Analysis

         GLDD only objects to documents summarizing the job description and physical demand analysis for a watch engineer on a cutter suction dredge.[10] In addition to disputing whether the documents have been or will be properly authenticated at trial, GLDD argues that these documents are irrelevant because Lawrence was not working on a cutter suction dredge in December 2015, the date of the alleged incident and, furthermore, the documents “have nothing to do with the work being done by [Lawrence]” at that time.[11]

         In response, Lawrence notes that the vessel that he was working on at the time of the alleged incident (the “vessel”) is a booster barge “used to facilitate dredging operations on the dredge TEXAS, which is a cutter section [sic] dredge” and that he was working as a watch engineer on the date he was injured.[12] Lawrence's contention that he was a watch engineer is supported by the deposition testimony of Sherif Abdelgufar (“Abdelgufar”), who Lawrence describes as “GLDD's maintenance manager and the manager who assigned Kenny to work on the TEXAS JR at the time of the subject accident.”[13] During his deposition, Abdelgufar referred to Lawrence as a watch engineer.[14]

         Whether the proposed exhibit is relevant depends on several facts, such as whether Lawrence was indeed a watch engineer and, if the TEXAS JUNIOR is not a cutter suction dredge, whether the job description and physical job analysis are nonetheless applicable to the tasks Lawrence was performing on the date he was allegedly injured. The Court will defer its ultimate ruling on the issue until trial.


         GLDD objects to the admissibility of MRI images and X-rays of Lawrence's spinal cord stimulator hardware.[15] In addition to arguing that the images and X-rays have not been properly authenticated, according to GLDD, the imaging results were not produced during discovery.[16] As a result, its independent medical examiner has not been able to review and analyze them, which GLDD claims unduly prejudices it at trial.[17] Lawrence asserts that the imaging was ...

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