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Basra v. Ecklund Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

May 8, 2017

INDERJEET BASRA, individually and as Personal Representative for the ESTATE OF ATINDERPAL SINGH; and DILSHAAN S. REHAL, by and through his next friend, INDERJEET BASRA, Plaintiffs,
v.
ECKLUND LOGISTICS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion in Limine, ECF No. 96, submitted by Defendant Ecklund Logistics, Inc. (“Ecklund”), and the Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine #1 through #5, ECF No. 100-1 through 100-5, submitted by Plaintiffs Inderjeet Basra, individually and as Personal Representative for the Estate of Atinderpal Singh, and Dilshaan S. Rehal, by and through his next friend, Inderjeet Basra (“Plaintiffs”).

         The parties agree that no argument or evidence should be admitted with respect to settlement negotiations between the parties; the existence or lack of insurance coverage for Ecklund; any offer or promise made by or on behalf of Ecklund to pay medical, hospital, property damage, or other expenses; any pre-death pain or suffering on the part of the decedent Atinderpal Singh (“Decedent”); any news media reports from the New York Times; and any settlement agreements between Plaintiffs and the Decedent's employer.

         Ecklund also seeks to preclude the Plaintiffs from presenting argument or evidence in six other subject matter areas: (1) punitive damages and Ecklund's financial condition; (2) opinions proffered by Plaintiff's expert Lew Grill (“Grill”); (3) whether Ecklund's driver, Freddie Galloway (“Galloway”), was in violation of hours-of-service requirements, kept duplicate driver's logs, was tired, was distracted, or had any prior driver's log violations, speeding violations, or accidents; (4) Ecklund's management practices, including training, discipline, safety, audits, and statistics; (5) claims that Ecklund destroyed evidence or acted in bad faith in record-keeping or discovery; and (6) Ecklund's course of conduct subsequent to the accident, including changes in its digital record-keeping, employee handbook, or disciplinary policies.

         Plaintiffs also seek to preclude Ecklund from presenting argument or evidence in three other subject matter areas: (1) York County accident reports and related officer comments; (2) reference to the Decedent's fatigue, inattention, or driver error; and (3) reference to the Decedent's immigration status, immigration history, ethnicity, national origin, or foreign travel.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Ecklund's Motion in Limine

         A. Punitive Damages and Ecklund's Financial Condition

         Plaintiffs note that Ecklund has moved for summary judgment regarding Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages, and therefore Ecklund's motion in limine as it relates to punitive damages and its financial condition may be addressed through the Court's ruling on the motion for summary judgment. The Court agrees.

         B. Testimony of Plaintiff's Proposed Expert, Lew Grill

         Ecklund seeks to preclude Grill from testifying to three opinions in his initial expert report, asserting that the opinions lack relevance and are inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Ecklund also seeks to preclude Grill from testifying to the opinions presented in his supplemental report, based on the report's untimeliness.

         The central difficulty in determining the relevance of Grill's testimony, and its admissibility under Rule 702, is the amorphous nature of the Plaintiffs' claims against Ecklund. In the Plaintiffs' Complaint, ECF No. 1, they alleged that Galloway engaged in specific negligent acts or omissions that were the proximate cause of a collision between the tractor driven by the Decedent and the trailer pulled by the tractor driven by Galloway. Complaint ¶¶ 9, 13, ECF No. 1. From the facts alleged in the Complaint, a reasonable juror could infer that an act or omission on the part of Galloway was the proximate cause of the Decedent's death:

As Galloway passed Decedent's vehicle at a high rate of speed, Galloway engaged in an unsafe and dangerous lane change from the Number 1 lane into the Number 2 lane immediately ahead of Decedent's vehicle and began to rapidly slow his vehicle. As a result of Galloway's actions, Decedent was unable to avoid ...

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