Motions In Limine

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Motions in Limine are a necessary evil to me. For the non-litigators reading this, Motions in limine are requests to the Court on the eve of trial to admit or exclude certain evidence. You will never see these on TV because they are basically just part of getting a case ready for the jury to hear it and are largely case-informed judgment calls by the Judge and the lawyers. The important thing about them is that they begin to narrow down the issues that are going to be heard at the trial. As someone representing the injured person, I don’t want a jury hearing that my client had a car accident eleven years ago even if it is totally unrelated. If I don’t bring it up, then the defense lawyer might suggest to the jury that the person sues a lot, or was injured previously, or is looking for any possible pay day. If I make the motion, most likely the Court will grant it and the defense lawyer when pressed will agree that they had no intention of bringing it up anyway. So, you have to make the motion. Just to be safe.

There are other Motions that are a little dicier, but the issues need to be aired out before the trial so that the judge knows there is an issue to deal with if and when it comes up during trial. For example, mental health issues are something that I try to keep out of most trials. Does your client have a history of anxiety and depression? Was that conditioned worsened by the fall or crash? Yes, most people will have some depression worsened by being rendered inactive or having lost a car or time from work etc. There is no mystery in that. But, do I want a jury hearing that my client has a history of a diagnosed mental condition? No. Why? Well, first, there is still a stigma around mental illness and you don’t want a juror believing the client has some sort of problem unrelated to the crash and is exaggerating things. Also, mental health damages are very, very hard to prove. Did the person get more depressed? Did their medication change? You would have to have a doctor render an opinion on these issues to get them admitted most times and that is extra expense for what is usually a minor element of damages. So, a motion in limine on mental health damages and pre-existing conditions is always something to be considered.

Finally, there are Motions in Limine that pertain to specific areas of personal injury law like bad faith claims. With these, as long as they are not super new legal issues, many judges will have ruled on these issues before, so while I have to make the motion, I may know how it is going to turn out. But, again, I still have to make the motion.