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Rogers v. Wal-Mart Stores East

March 6, 2008

IDA M. ROGERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are several motions in limine filed by both parties to this action (Court File No. 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 70). The Court's rulings on these motions are made in the accompanying Order for the reasons set out below.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are more fully set out in the Court's memorandum granting in part and denying in part summary judgment (Court File No. 76). However, the Court will briefly summarize the facts relevant for the disposition of these motions.

Plaintiff Ida M. Rogers ("Plaintiff") worked for defendant Wal-Mart Stores East L.P. ("Defendant") from 1999 until 2004. On January 10, 2002, Plaintiff was injured while working for Defendant. Plaintiff's ability to work was severely limited by her injury, but Plaintiff continued to work for Defendant with lengthy leaves of absence and accommodations. On May 17, 2004, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. Defendant claims it terminated Plaintiff's employment either because she failed to show for several weeks or because other employees caught Plaintiff sleeping on the job. Plaintiff claims Defendant fired her because she was disabled and so violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 ("ADA").

Plaintiff also claims she suffered harassment from her supervisor and others that constituted harassment in violation of the ADA. Plaintiff alleges as part of this harassment her supervisors failed to offer reasonable accommodations as required by the ADA.

Plaintiff has filed claims for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits as well as temporary and permanent total disability workers' compensation benefits. Plaintiff has also filed this action for wrongful termination, failure to accommodate, and hostile work environment under the ADA. On summary judgment, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's failure to accommodate claim, but denied Defendant's motion on Plaintiff's wrongful termination and hostile work environment claims.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's First and Second Motions in Limine (Court File Nos. 52, 53)

Plaintiff's first and second motions involve the same two legal issues: first, whether evidence of Plaintiff's claims for SSDI benefits and workers' compensation benefits is relevant to the present action; and second, whether the probative value of Plaintiff's other legal claims is substantially outweighed by either the danger of unfair prejudice or the risk of confusing the issues.

Plaintiff argues the only relevance of the other claims goes to the issue of estoppel, and estoppel is "a legal issue for the Court rather than a factual issue for the jury to decide." (Court File No. 52 at 1). Therefore, Plaintiff contends this evidence has no tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable.

As such, the evidence is not relevant to the question of whether Plaintiff is a qualified person with a disability, and this evidence should be excluded under Fed. R. Evid. 402.

Plaintiff further argues the "jury could likely become confused between the standards and purposes of the ADA and the workers' compensation laws of Tennessee" (Court File No. 52), and so the evidence should be excluded under Fed. R. Evid. 403. Plaintiff makes substantially similar arguments in her motion to exclude evidence of her claim for SSDI benefits (Court File No. 53).

Defendant replies the evidence is relevant because it tends to refute Plaintiff's status as a qualified person with a disability under the ADA (Court File No. 65). Defendant argues Plaintiff's present position is in conflict with her prior statements, and Defendant may use prior inconsistent statements both to impeach Plaintiff and as substantive evidence.

In response to Plaintiff's Rule 403 argument, Defendant argues Plaintiff's inconsistent positions mean the probative value of the evidence "substantially outweighs any potential prejudice." (Id.). Defendant has also filed a supplemental response to clarify its legal position, which is that Plaintiff's other claims are relevant to the factual issue of whether Plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability (Court File No. 87).

Plaintiff's argument against this evidence's relevance is mistaken. Even if the evidence is necessary to consider a question of estoppel, that does not mean ...


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