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Rigsbee v. City and County of Honolulu

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 12, 2010

CLIFFORD MCARTHUR RIGSBEE, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Clifford Meredith Rigsbee, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1 REGARDING PRIOR INCIDENTS (ECF No. 141)

          HELEN GILLMOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant City and County of Honolulu's Motion In Limine No. 1 seeks to exclude reference to or admission of evidence relating to other incidents that occurred involving Honolulu Fire Department Rescue Watercraft prior to the June 14, 2016 accident involving Clifford Meredith Rigsbee (“Decedent”).

         Specifically, Defendant seeks to prevent Plaintiff from admitting Trial Exhibit 127, Rescue Water Craft Injury Report Summary (“RWC Injury Report Summary”) and Trial Exhibit 128, Reports of Industrial Injury or Illness.

         The Parties agree as to the bulk of the exhibits. Plaintiff does not oppose the exclusion of Trial Exhibit 127, RWC Injury Report Summary. Plaintiff also does not oppose the exclusion of majority of Trial Exhibit 128. Plaintiff does however, wish to introduce two injury reports, listed as Incident #12 and Incident #22 in Trial Exhibit 128. (Trial Exhibit 128, pp. 25-26, 57-58).

         Defendant City and County of Honolulu's Motion In Limine No. 1 (ECF No. 141) as reduced to incidents #12 and 22 is DENIED.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Subject Incident

         On June 14, 2016, Clifford Meredith Rigsbee (“Decedent”) was engaged in rescue watercraft training as part of his duties as a firefighter with the Honolulu Fire Department.

         During the ocean training, Decedent suffered blunt force injury to his head and neck. He was brought ashore and transported to Straub Medical Center. Two days later, on June 16, 2014, he died as a result of his injuries.

         II. Prior Incidents

         “A showing of substantial similarity is required when a plaintiff attempts to introduce evidence of other accidents as direct proof of negligence, a design defect, or notice of the defect.” Cooper v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 945 F.2d 1103, 1105 (9th Cir. 1991). Pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 402, dissimilar accidents lack the relevance required for admissibility. Id.

         The degree of substantial similarity is dependent on how the evidence is to be used. If the evidence is being offered to prove the existence of a dangerous condition, a higher degree of similarity is required because it weighs directly on the issue to be decided by the trier of fact. Younan v. Rolls-Royce Corp., No. 09cv2136-WQH-BGS, 2013 WL 1899919, *9 (S.D. Cal. May 7, 2013). The degree of substantial similarity is relaxed when the unrelated incidents are introduced to prove notice or awareness of a defect. Id.; Pau v. Yosemite Park & Curry Co., 928 F.2d 880, 889 (9th Cir. 1991). Any differences in the incidents not affecting a finding of substantial similarity go to the weight of the evidence. Younan, 2013 WL 1899919, at *9.

         Substantial similarity and closeness in time between the incidents help determine the relevance of the evidence. Weinstein's Fed. Evid. § 401.08 [2].

         Plaintiff argues that Decedent's injury occurred after the RWC traversed a wave while the Decedent ...


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