Northwest Indiana personal injury lawyer discusses how he uses motions in limine in his personal injury trials.
A motion in limine is a preliminary motion filed with the court asking the court to rule on the admissibility of a certain piece of evidence. Indiana rule of evidence 104(a) says:
Questions of Admissibility Generally. Preliminary questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness, the existence of a privilege, or the admissibility of evidence shall be determined by the Court, subject to the provisions of subdivision (b). In making its determination, the Court is not bound by the Rules of Evidence, except those with respect to privileges. Where a determination of admissibility under this paragraph requires resolution of a question of fact, the question shall be resolved by the preponderance of the evidence.
Why a motion in limine?
Motions in limine are helpful because the parties hopefully can get a ruling on whether a piece of evidence is coming in or staying out. This allows for an orderly trial and it allows the parties to gear their case around damaging evidence that may be coming into evidence. All cases have some evidence that is not good for either party – if it wasn't so – there wouldn't be a lawsuit.
Example of how a motion in limine may be used?
I have a client that was severely burned in a car accident. For months after the crash, he had to have multiple surgeries taking off dead skin – allowing new skin to grow. I have photos documenting the multiple surgeries that the client went through. I want the photos to come into evidence because I want the jury to see what my client had to go through months on end. If they see my client now, they will just see some scarring and will not be able to appreciate what he had to do to get to this point.
The insurance defense lawyer knows that those photographs can hurt his case because they are not pretty, to say the least. She files a motion in limine asking the court to keep out the photos or in the alternative to limit the number of photos. The insurance defense lawyer knows that the photos accurately portray what my client's skin looked like at any given time, which is the standard for admissibility of photos. Instead, she argues that the photos are prejudicial to her client and the photos would just garner sympathy with the jury.
Both sides want a ruling on this issue so we can frame what will be said at trial and the exhibits that will be used at trial. If I had to guess, the judge will probably split the baby on this one and allow a few photos into evidence but not the 25 that I want to admit into evidence.
Motions in limine are an effective tool in a personal injury lawyer's arsenal. A trial is a production and the more we know about the admissibility of evidence the more we can prepare for an effective presentation of the evidence. Judges also like motions in limine so they do not have to deal with tough evidentiary issues on the fly in front of the jury.
If you have any questions about a Northwest Indiana personal injury case or how motions in limine can be used, contact our Michigan City personal injury lawyer.