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Philips v. Dull

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

June 12, 2017

DERSTEA PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
TIM DULL and NATION'S TOWING, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          PAUL M. WARNER, Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         On June 25, 2013, all parties consented to having Chief United States Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner conduct all proceedings in the case, including entry of final judgment, with direct appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Before the court are the following motions in limine: (1) Derstea Phillips's (“Plaintiff”) Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Criminal Record;[2] (2) Tim Dull's and Nation's Towing, Inc.'s (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion Re: Evidence of Plaintiff's Conviction for Credit Card Theft and Forgery;[3] (3) Defendants' Motion to Preclude Plaintiff from Seeking Damages for Lost Employment or Lost Vocational Capacity;[4] (4) Defendants' Motion to Preclude Plaintiff from Seeking Punitive Damages;[5] and (5) Defendants' Motion to Preclude Statements and Argument as to “The Golden Rule” Together with Similar “Reptile” and “Reptilian” Arguments.[6] The court has carefully reviewed the written motions and memoranda submitted by the parties. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Utah, the court has concluded that oral argument is not necessary and will determine the motions on the basis of the written memoranda. See DUCivR 7-1(f).

         A. Plaintiff's Criminal History

         The parties each filed motions related to the admissibility of Plaintiff's criminal history. Plaintiff seeks to exclude from trial evidence of her convictions for breaking and entering and for forgery and theft. While Defendants seek an order allowing the admission of evidence of Plaintiff's conviction for theft of a credit card and forgery, they do not seek admission of Plaintiff's convictions for breaking and entering as they occurred more than ten years ago and would be precluded under Rule 609(b). Fed.R.Evid. 609(b) (“This subdivision (b) applies if more than 10 years have passed since the witness's conviction or release from confinement for it, whichever is later.”).

         Having reviewed the relevant law and considered the arguments set forth by the parties, and being fully advised, the court now rules as follows. Evidence of Plaintiff's conviction for theft of a credit card and forgery is admissible as it occurred on August 27, 2007, less than 10 years ago. Pursuant to Rule 609(a)(2), evidence of a criminal conviction “must be admitted 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.” Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(2). Because forgery is a crime of dishonesty and the theft of the credit card was in connection to Plaintiff's forgery conviction, evidence of both may be introduced at trial. The court does not find that the probative value of Plaintiff's conviction is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice. See Fed. R. Evid. 403. Rather, crimes containing an element of deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification like fo r g e r y, tend to show a party's likelihood of testifying untruthfully. See United States v. Mejia-Alarcon, 995 F.2d 982, 988-89 (10th Cir. 1993). Of course, Plaintiff may provide evidence that she has turned her life around and has no arrests or convictions since the 2007 conviction.

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Plaintiff's Criminal Record is DENIED and Defendants' Motion Re: Evidence of Plaintiff's Conviction for Credit Card Theft and Forgery is GRANTED. Extrinsic evidence of Plaintiff's 2007 conviction is excluded. However, the court may allow extrinsic evidence if Plaintiff denies the existence of her conviction and the evidence is properly before the court.

         B. Evidence of Damages for Lost Employment or Vocational Capacity

         Defendants seek an order excluding any evidence or argument that Plaintiff should be awarded damages based on the loss of vocational capacity because Plaintiff failed to identify an expert witness or supplement her initial disclosure to provide damage computations regarding future income potential. In response, Plaintiff indicates that she was not working at the time of the accident and, as a result, she will not offer any evidence or testimony quantifying claims for wage loss, loss of earning capacity, or loss of vocational capacity. Plaintiff, however, opposes Defendants' motion to the extent that it seeks to exclude testimony regarding her physical condition, capabilities, and limitations. Plaintiff asserts that she should be permitted to present evidence of how the injuries she suffered in the accident have impacted, and will continue to impact, her life.

         Because Plaintiff does not oppose Defendants' motion with respect to claims for wage loss, earning capacity, or vocational capacity, this court GRANTS Defendants' motion. This ruling does not prohibit Plaintiff from presenting evidence regarding the full extent of her injuries and their impact on her life.

         C. Punitive Damages

         Defendants move the court to exclude evidence suggesting or implying that Plaintiff should be awarded punitive damages. Utah law provides that

punitive damages may be awarded only if compensatory or general damages are awarded and it is established by clear and convincing evidence that the acts or omissions of the tortfeasor are the result of willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct, or conduct that manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others.

         Utah Code Ann. § 78B-8-201(1)(a). Defendants argue that there is no allegation that they acted with reckless indifference and that Plaintiff has only alleged a claim of simple negligence. In response, Plaintiff acknowledges that the evidence to date does not support a claim for punitive damages. However, Plaintiff contends that she should not be precluded from seeking punitive damages if the evidence elicited at trial demonstrates that Defendants' actions were willful, malicious, and/or evince a knowing and reckless indifference toward and disregard of Plaintiff's rights.

         The court concludes that Defendants' motion is premature. Plaintiff has indicated that she will not seek punitive damages unless evidence at trial substantiates that claim. The court will reserve on this issue pending the evidence presented ...


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