United States District Court, D. Hawaii
VIOLETA ESCOBAR, also known as VIOLETA ESCOBAR CLINE, Individually and as Personal Representative for the ESTATE OF NATHAN CLINE, Deceased, Plaintiff,
AIRBUS HELICOPTERS SAS, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1
(ECF NO. 211)
GILMORE DISTRICT JUDGE
Airbus Helicopters SAS (“Airbus”) has filed an
“Omnibus” Motion in Limine No. 1, which contains
various motions in limine.
Defendant's Motion in Limine No. 1
1. Motion to Exclude Evidence of or Reference to
Indemnity or Liability Insurance or Insurance
seeks to exclude any evidence that it may have liability
Rule of Evidence 411 requires the exclusion of evidence that
a defendant was insured against liability when that evidence
is offered for the purposes of proving the defendant's
wrongful conduct. Fed.R.Evid. 411.
of liability insurance is also excluded pursuant to Federal
Rules of Evidence 401 and 403.
to Federal Rule of Evidence 401(a), evidence is relevant if
it has a tendency to make a fact more probable or less
probable than it would be without the evidence.
evidence is inadmissible when its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice,
confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay,
wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.
has not provided any basis to demonstrate that evidence of
liability insurance is relevant in this case. In re
Hanford Nuclear Reservation Litig., 534 F.3d 986, 1014
(9th Cir. 2008). Evidence of liability insurance confuses the
issues and misleads the jury. Evidence of liability insurance
tends to alter the jurors' assessment of damages, which
unfairly prejudices the parties. See Posttape Assocs. v.
Eastman Kodak Co., 537 F.2d 751, 758 (3d Cir. 1976);
Garnac Grain Co. v. Blackley, 932 F.2d 1563, 1570
(8th Cir. 1991).
Motion in Limine No. 1 as to Section #1 is GRANTED.
is precluded from introducing any testimony, evidence,
argument, or other reference that Defendant may be insured
2. Motion to Exclude Evidence of or Reference to the
Size of Airbus Helicopters' Law Firms
seeks to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence or
making any references to the size of the law firms
representing the Defendant as well as any remarks about their
reputations, hourly fees, or any other similar information.
has not demonstrated that such evidence is relevant to the
issues before the jury. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence
401(a), evidence is relevant if it has a tendency to make a
fact more probable or less probable than it would be without
size of the law firms representing Defendant, as well as
their reputations, their hourly fees, or any similar
statements are irrelevant to the case. Fed.R.Evid. 401.
Motion in Limine No. 1 as to Section #2 is GRANTED.
is precluded from introducing any testimony, evidence,
argument, or other reference to the size of the law firms
representing Defendant, the reputation of the Defendant's
law firms and their attorneys, their hourly fees, or any
3, 4, and 5 of Defendant's Motion in Limine No. 1 are
relevant to the issue of punitive damages. At the Final
Pretrial Conference held on September 26, 2016, the Parties
agreed to bifurcate the punitive damages phase of the trial
from the liability and compensatory damages phase of the
Section 3. Motion to Exclude Evidence of or
Reference to Airbus Helicopters' Size, Financial
Condition, Solvency, or Ability to Pay a Verdict or Satisfy a
Section 4. Motion to Exclude References to
“Punishing” or “Sending a Message” to
Defendant's Motion in Limine No. 1 in Section 3
seeks to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence related
to Defendant's present financial condition and ability to
of a defendant's financial status or ability to pay is
not relevant to the issue of compensatory damages because the
purpose of such damages is to make the plaintiff whole and is
not dependent on the wealth of the defendant. Geddes v.
United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977).
financial condition may be relevant to punitive damages.
White v. Ford Motor Co., 500 F.3d 963, 976-77 (9th
4 of the Defendant's Motion in Limine No. 1 is
concerned with language used to discuss the issue of punitive
damages with the jury. Statements to the jury to “send
a message” or “punish” the Defendant are
inappropriate in the liability and compensatory damages phase
of the trial. Wielgus v. Ryobi Technologies,
Inc., 2012 WL 1853090, *2 (N.D. Ill. May 21, 2012);
Osorio v. One World Techs., Inc., 659 F.3d 81, 90
(1st Cir. 2011).
of the Defendant's ability to pay or statements to the
jury about “sending a message” to Defendant are
not admissible during the liability and compensatory damages
phase of the trial. Vasbinder v. Ambach, 926 F.2d
1333, 1344 (2d Cir. 1991) (“punitive damages are to be
tailored to the defendant's ability to pay, and normally
that class of evidence is not admitted or desirable during
the liability and compensatory damages phase of the
case.”); Day v. Forman Automotive Group, 2015
WL 1250447, *5 (D. Nev. Mar. 18, 2015) (finding that the
plaintiff was precluded from introducing the defendant's
financial condition until the second phase of the trial on
punitive damages); Campbell v. Keystone Aerial Surveys
Inc., 138 F.3d 996, 1005-06 (5th Cir. 1998) (upholding
sanctions imposed on plaintiff's counsel for failing to
abide by the court's pre-trial order precluding the
introduction of evidence of the defendant's financial
status and ability to pay in the liability and compensatory
damages phase of the trial in an aviation accident case).
Motion in Limine No. 1, as to Sections #3-#4, is GRANTED.
the liability and compensatory damages phase of the trial,
Plaintiff is precluded from introducing evidence or reference
to Airbus Helicopters SAS's size, financial condition,
solvency, or ability to pay a verdict or satisfy a judgment.
Plaintiff shall also refrain from references to
“punishing” or “sending a message” to
Defendant during the liability and compensatory damages phase
of the trial.
matter will be revisited should there be a punitive damages
5. Motion to Exclude References to Punitive Damages or
Language Related Thereto
seeks to preclude Plaintiff from referencing punitive damages
at any phase of trial.
the filing of Defendant's Motion, the Parties agreed to
bifurcate the punitive damages phase of the trial from the
liability and compensatory damages phase of the trial.
to Hawaii law, punitive damages are recoverable in both
negligence actions and products liability actions based on
strict liability if the plaintiff provide the requisite
aggravating conduct on the part of the defendant. Masaki
v. Gen. Motors Corp., 780 P.2d 566, 570 (Haw. 1989);
Best Place v. Penn. Am. Ins. Co., 920 P.2d 334, 347
damages may be recovered if a plaintiff can prove by clear
and convincing evidence that a defendant acted wantonly or
oppressively, or with such malice as implies a spirit of
mischief or criminal indifference to civil obligations, or
where there has been some willful misconduct or that entire
want of care that would raise the presumption of a conscious
indifference to consequences. Kaopuiki v. Kealoha,
87 P.3d 910, 927 (Haw. App. Ct. 2003) (citing Kang v.
Harrington, 587 P.2d 285, 291 (Haw. 1978).
Motion in Limine No. 1 as to Section #5 is GRANTED as to the