Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cone v. Hankook Tire Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

May 31, 2017

LISA C. CONE, Attorney-in-Fact and Next Friend of TIMOTHY H. L. FRAZIER, and TIMOTHY H. L. FRAZIER, Individually, Plaintiffs,



         Before the Court are a series of Motions in Limine filed by both parties. A pretrial conference is set for June 1, 2017, with a jury trial to follow on June 19, 2017. The Court's rulings on the Motions in Limine are set forth below.

         I. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine Regarding Compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

         In their first Motion in Limine (ECF No. 244), Plaintiffs seek to exclude any proof that the vehicle and its component parts complied with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For support Plaintiffs rely on 15 U.S.C. § 1397(c), the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act's saving clause, which Congress has repealed and recodified at 49 U.S.C. § 30103(e). Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc., 529 U.S. 861, 868 (2000) (describing 15 U.S.C. § 1397(k) (1988 ed.) as a “saving” clause). That paragraph states that “compliance with a motor vehicle safety standard prescribed [under the Act] does not exempt a person from liability at common law.” 49 U.S.C. § 30103(e). However, Plaintiffs' reliance on the saving clause is misplaced. Nothing in the plain language of the statute or in the case law construing it suggests, as Plaintiffs argue, that the Act precludes a party from introducing evidence of its product complying with federal safety standards. The Act merely saves tort claims that may arise under the common law of the states even where the manufacturer has complied with federal safety standards.

         Furthermore, as Defendant correctly notes, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-104(a) creates a rebuttable presumption that a product was not in an unreasonably dangerous condition if the manufacturer or seller of the product complied with federal or state statute or regulation concerning safety standards for the product at the time the product was manufactured. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-104(a). Section 29-28-104(b)(2) goes on to preclude an award of punitive damages against a manufacturer where the product complies with a relevant federal safety standard. § 29-28-104(b)(2). Proof that Defendant's tire complied with federal standards is plainly relevant to the issues remaining for trial and is therefore admissible. Plaintiffs' first Motion in Limine is DENIED.

         II. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine to Prohibit Reference to Worker's Compensation Benefits and Other Collateral Sources

         Plaintiffs' second Motion in Limine (ECF No. 245) seeks to exclude evidence that Plaintiff Timothy Frazier is receiving worker's compensation and Social Security benefits. Plaintiffs argue that Defendant should not be permitted to introduce evidence of these or any other benefits under the collateral source rule. Defendant responds that the proof is relevant for three reasons. First, Defendant should be allowed to show the amounts actually paid for Plaintiff's medical treatment, as opposed to the full amounts billed by the providers of the medical services. Second, Defendant contends that Southern Concrete, Mr. Frazier's employer at the time of the accident, has a worker's compensation subrogation claim against any potential recovery and therefore a significant financial interest in Plaintiffs' recovery. As such, Defendant should be allowed to impeach the testimony of Southern Concrete's owner Rick Odle to show that his company has a stake in any recovery the jury may award Plaintiffs. Finally, Plaintiff's Social Security benefits are relevant to rebut his claim for the employer-paid portion of the Social Security tax.

         The Court begins by noting that Judge Breen granted Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment on January 25, 2017 (ECF no. 279), holding in relevant part that Plaintiffs could not introduce proof of the full amount billed for Mr. Frazier's medical treatment. Instead, the Court concluded that Plaintiffs could only introduce proof of the amount actually paid by third-parties. Judge Breen's ruling would appear to eliminate one of Defendant's reasons for allowing proof about Mr. Frazier's worker's compensation and Social Security benefits. This leaves Defendant's point that Southern Concrete has a stake in Plaintiffs prevailing at trial and that Plaintiffs are not allowed to recover the employer-paid portion of the Social Security tax. The Court finds that it is not well situated to reach these arguments based only on the briefs of the parties. Therefore, the Court reserves its ruling on the Motion until the parties can be heard further on this matter, most likely at trial.

         III. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine to Prohibit Reference to Hankook Tire America's Plant and Offices in Tennessee

         In their third Motion in Limine (ECF No. 246), Plaintiffs ask the Court to prohibit Defendant from offering any evidence that Hankook Tire America Corporation has its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. The Court dismissed Hankook Tire America as a party to this action at summary judgment (ECF No. 242). Plaintiffs argue then that the fact that this non-party has operations in Tennessee is irrelevant. Defendant answers that it should be allowed to show the jury that it has a presence in Tennessee and to question the venire about any possible connection any potential juror may have to the company.

         The Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion is well taken and should be GRANTED. Defendant may not introduce evidence at trial to show that a non-party to the suit has its headquarters or any other operations in the state of Tennessee. The Court's ruling will not prevent either party from questioning the venire about their general knowledge of Hankook, including whether they know any employees of Hankook.

         IV. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine Regarding Evidence of Hankook's Corporate Good Acts

         Plaintiffs' fourth Motion in Limine (ECF No. 247) seeks to exclude evidence of Hankook's corporate good acts. Hankook responds that it does not intent to introduce such evidence, though Defendant reserves the right to introduce evidence of its safety record as rebuttal proof. That particular issue is not actually presented in Plaintiffs' Motion. Because Defendant does not oppose it, Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine is GRANTED as to this issue.

         V. Defendant's Omnibus Motion in Limine

         In its Omnibus Motion in Limine (ECF No. 251), Defendant has raised a number of discrete issues, which the Court will address in the order Defendant has presented them in its Motion.

         A. Liability Insurance

         Defendant first argues that the Court should prohibit Plaintiffs from mentioning or in any way alluding to the fact that Defendant has liability insurance. Plaintiffs respond that they do not intent to present any evidence of or in any way raise the issue of liability insurance with the jury. Therefore, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED as to this issue.

         B. “Golden Rule” or ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.