United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DAVID H. DOTSON, Plaintiff
JOHN PRICE, ET AL., Defendants
ORDER AND REASONS
MORGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are (1) a motion to introduce evidence of Plaintiff
David H. Dotson's prior convictions, filed by Defendant
Atlantic Specialty Insurance Co.
(“Atlantic”); (2) a motion for the Court to take
judicial notice of a statement made during the workers'
compensation proceeding related to this matter, filed by
Atlantic; and (3) a motion to exclude evidence of
Dotson's prior convictions, his workers' compensation
claim, and his prior civil litigation, filed by
Dotson. The motions are opposed. The Court rules
on the motions as set forth herein.
case arises out of a January 19, 2015 auto accident between
Dotson and John Price. Dotson seeks to recover damages resulting
from personal injuries he alleges he sustained in the
accident. Dotson filed a workers' claim against his
employer, Pitts & Sons, Inc., with the Louisiana Office
of Workers' Compensation.
January 19, 2016, Dotson filed the instant suit against John
Price and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company,
Dotson's underinsured motorist insurer, was joined to the
suit on September 6, 2017. Atlantic was named as an additional
Defendant on November 3, 2o17. The only remaining Defendant is
6, 2019, the parties filed the instant motions regarding the
admissibility of evidence of Dotson's prior convictions
and evidence related to his workers' compensation
claim. Dotson also moves to exclude evidence of
his prior civil litigation.The motions are
opposed. The Court first addresses the
parties' arguments regarding evidence of Dotson's
convictions, then turns to evidence related to his
workers' compensation claim and evidence of Dotson's
prior civil litigation.
Evidence Regarding Dotson's Prior Convictions
seeks to introduce evidence of (1) Dotson's 2012
conviction for theft and (2) his 2003 conviction for mail
fraud and obstruction of justice. Dotson seeks to exclude
evidence of these convictions.
Dotson's 2012 Conviction for Theft
April 27, 2012, a jury in the Criminal District Court for the
Parish of Orleans found Dotson guilty of theft, in violation
of La. Rev. Stat. § 14:67(A). On August 3, 2012, Dotson
was sentenced to two years at hard labor. Atlantic
argues evidence of Dotson's theft conviction should be
admitted under Rule 609(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of
609(a)(2) which requires admission of evidence “if the
court can readily determine that establishing the elements of
the crime required proving-or the witness's admitting-a
dishonest act or false statement.” Evidence of
crimes under Rule 609(a)(2) is not subject to Rule 403
balancing. In the Fifth Circuit, felony theft is not a crime
that requires proving a dishonest act or false
statement. As a result, Dotson's 2012 felony
theft conviction is not admissible under Rule 609(a)(2).
argues Rule 609(a)(2) applies because Dotson admitted in
discovery that the charge was for contractor
fraud. Under the plain language of Rule
609(a)(2), evidence is only admissible if establishing the
elements of the crime requires proving a dishonest act or
false statement. Dotson's admissions in written discovery
are irrelevant to the issue of whether the elements of felony
theft require proving a dishonest act or false statement.
Court turns to Rule 609(a)(1), which governs the
admissibility of convictions for impeachment generally. Rule
609(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Evidence provides:
[F]or a crime that, in the convicting jurisdiction, was
punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one
year, the evidence must be admitted, subject to Rule 403, in
a civil case or in a criminal case in which the witness is
not a defendant.
time of Dotson's conviction, the statute under which he
was convicted for theft provided, “When the
misappropriation or taking amounts to a value of five hundred
dollars or more, but less than a value of one thousand five
hundred dollars, the offender shall be imprisoned, with or
without hard labor, for not more than five
years.” Because the crime was punishable by
imprisonment of more than one year, it must be admitted,
subject to Rule 403.
403 provides, “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.” The Court finds evidence of Dotson's
2012 conviction for felony theft is not probative of his
character for truthfulness, and there is a substantial risk
of unfair prejudice to Dotson from the introduction of
evidence regarding his conviction. As a result, the Court
excludes evidence of Dotson's 2012 conviction for theft.
Dotson's 2003 Conviction for Mail Fraud and Obstruction
[I]f more than 10 years have passed since the witness's
conviction or release from confinement for it, whichever is
later[, e]vidence of the conviction is admissible only if:
(1) its probative value, supported by specific facts and
circumstances, substantially outweighs its prejudicial
(2) the proponent gives an adverse party reasonable written
notice of the intent to use it so that the party has a fair
opportunity to contest its use.
September 16, 2003, a jury in another section of this Court
found Dotson guilty of eighteen counts of mail fraud and two
counts of obstruction of justice. On January 21, 2004, he
was sentenced to twenty-one months' imprisonment for each
count, to be served concurrently.
seeks to introduce this evidence at trial. Atlantic has
provided Dotson “reasonable written notice” in
accordance with Rule 609(b)(2). The Court turns to
whether the probative value of evidence of Dotson's
convictions for mail fraud and obstruction of justice
substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect.
considering whether the probative value of a prior conviction
substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect pursuant to
Rule 609(b), courts consider five factors:
(1) The nature impeachment value of the crime.
(2) The time of conviction.
(3) The similarity between the past crime and the charged
(4) The importance of [the witness'] testimony.
(5) The centrality of the credibility
general rule is inadmissibility” for crimes committed
ten years prior to trial,  and these convictions are
“presumptively inadmissible as impeachment
evidence.” The balance is “weighted against
finding that the probative value of a more than 10-year-old
conviction substantially outweighs its prejudicial
effect.” The Court analyzes each factor with
respect to Dotson's convictions for mail fraud and
obstruction of justice.
respect to the first factor, the Fifth Circuit has held that
“prior crimes involving deliberate and carefully
premeditated intent such as fraud and forgery are far more
likely to have probative value with respect to later acts
than prior crimes involving a quickly and spontaneously
formed intent, ” and that “such crimes are more
probative on the issue of propensity to lie under oath than
more violent crimes which do not involve
was convicted of mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341. To
be convicted under the statute a defendant must meet the
mens rea requirement for fraudulent intent that he:
ha[s] devised or intend[ed] to devise any scheme or artifice
to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of
false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises,
or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away,
distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use
any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or
other article, or anything represented to be or intimated or
held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article, for the
purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so
Court finds Dotson's mail fraud conviction is highly
probative on the issue of Dotson's character for
truthfulness and therefore has significant impeachment value.
The first factor weighs in favor of admitting evidence
regarding Dotson's mail fraud conviction.
Court turns to the first factor in connection with
Dotson's conviction for obstruction of justice. Dotson
was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1503, which requires a
showing that he acted “corruptly, or by threats or
force, or by any threatening letter or
communication.” This offense does not require a
“deliberate and carefully premeditated intent,
” and it is not probative as to
Dotson's character for truthfulness. The Court finds the
first factor weighs against admitting evidence of
Dotson's obstruction of justice conviction.
the second factor, the Fifth Circuit views with disfavor the
admission of evidence of convictions that are more than ten
years old. Dotson's convictions for mail fraud and
obstruction of justice are nearly 16 years old. The Court
finds this factor weighs against admission for both
third factor, similarity between the past crime and the
charged crime, is not applicable here because Dotson has not
been charged with a crime.
Court turns to the fourth and fifth factors, the importance
of the witness's testimony and the centrality of the
credibility testimony, in connection with Dotson's mail
fraud conviction. “When the crux of the case is a
credibility issue, . . . evidence of prior convictions takes
on ‘special significance.'” The primary
issue in this case is causation- whether the auto accident
exacerbated Dotson's pre-existing injuries. In his
deposition, Dotson's treating physician Dr. Stewart
testified that, comparing MRIs of Dotson's shoulder
before and after the accident, “the MRI may have looked
unchanged but the- the symptoms were
changed.” He stated that his knowledge of the
“symptoms” was what Dotson himself
reported. Dotson's credibility is particularly
important to the jury's determination of causation in
this case. The fourth and fifth factors weigh in favor of
admitting evidence of Dotson's convictions for mail fraud
and obstruction of justice.
Dotson's mail fraud conviction, the first, fourth, and
fifth factors weigh in favor of admission. The Court finds
the probative value of Dotson's conviction substantially
outweighs its prejudicial ...