[B]Case Name:[/B][I]Stewart Stumbaugh v. American Commercial Lines LLC
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]September 9, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. Eastern District of Louisiana
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Vance
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 2922312 (E.D.La.)[B]Background:
[/B]Before this Court were objections to evidence, witnesses, documents, exhibits, and proposed [I]voire dire.[/I]
Plaintiff, Stewart Stumbaugh, (“Stumbaugh”), was injured during a 10 day deckhand training session at American Commercial Lines LLC’s (“American”), Illinois facility.
The seventh day was “fleet awareness day” in which trainees were taken out to see different kinds of barges used by American. On the eighth day, Stumbaugh was trained to tighten winches on an unmanned barge. While tightening his first winch, he fell and was given medical care. Following medical care Stumbaugh returned to finish two days of classroom training. Stumbaugh did not return to work for American and was never assigned to an American vessel.
Stumbaugh filed an action under the Jones Act and general maritime law. The Court dismissed Stumbaugh’s Jones Act, Maintenance and Cure, and Unseaworthiness claims, and gave him leave to amend his complaint to assert a general maritime negligence claim.
Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, by the Court, parties were required to file a list of all witnesses who may or will be called to testify at trial and all exhibits which may or will be used at trial [I]no later than March 22, 2009[/I]. Both parties submitted timely witness and exhibit lists on March 20, 2009.
Both parties filed multiple objections on the evidence present by the other side based on hearsay, untimely disclosure, undue prejudice, and lack of specificity.
[/B]Which evidentiary objections did this Court sustain and/or overrule?
American objected to the introduction of Stumbaugh’s medical records, photographs of Stumbaugh’s ankle, the testimony of Tammy Stumbaugh, Stumbaugh’s “catchall exhibits, and witnesses”, and certain deposition testimony introduced by Stumbaugh.
The Court sustained American’s objection with respect to Stumbaugh’s medical records, more specifically, his functional capacity evaluation. This Court however, ruled that Stumbaigh may admit at trial the other medical records listed in the Pretrial Order.
Further, American contended that the photographs of Stumbaugh’s ankle are not admissible because, they were improperly withheld during discovery and should be excluded. Ultimately, the district court will have broad discretion to preserve the integrity and purpose of a pretrial order. Because of the importance of the photograph’s to Stumbaugh’s case, this Court found that the admission of the photographs would not undermine the integrity and purpose of the Pretrial Order.
Third, American argued that the testimony of Tammy Stumbaugh should be excluded because she was not specifically identified in Stumbaugh’s March 20 List. The list however, contains a "relative or friend of Stewart Stumbaugh-fact witness to discuss affect accident has had on plaintiff including physically, emotionally, and financially. This Court found that the testimony is admissible because American fails to claim it was deprived of the opportunity to depose Tammy after she was listed as a trial witness in the Pretrial Order over three months ago.
As to Stumbaugh’s “catchall” exhibits and witnesses American argued that these categories are far too broad and could unfairly include exhibits American had received no prior notice. This Court found that because Stumbaugh identified the deposition attachments, drawings or photographs that he intends to introduce at trial that it was sufficient enough to give American notice.
Stumbaugh objected to the introduction of his employment application and pre-employment physical examination records and the introduction of photographs of a winch and cheater bar.
Stumbaugh argued that his employment application and pre-employment physical examination were not produced in discover and are hearsay and therefore, are not admissible. This Court determined the evidence to be admissible because Stumbaugh has not shown he requested his employment application and pre-employment physical examinations in discovery.
Also, Stumbaugh objected to the introduction of photographs of a winch and cheater bar. Stumbaugh claimed they were not produced in discovery and that they do not necessarily represent the kind of winch and cheater bar at issue in this case. Stumbaugh did not, however, provide this Court wil any basis for determining whether he requested these photographs in discovery.
Finally, American objected to Sumbaugh’s proposed [I]Voir Dire ([/I]jury selection). Specifically, American argued that the question “whether anyone in the jury has or known someone who has worked in the insurance industry as an adjuster handling claims,” as irrelevant to the litigation because there is no insurance as a named party. This Court, having broad discretion over the [I]Voire Dire [/I]process, instead asked potential jurors whether “you, or any of your immediate family, has ever worked handling claims of any kind.”
This case illustrates the importance of the tedious discovery process. A lot of objections were overruled simply because the party could not show to the Court that they had properly requested specific evidence in a discovery request. [/B]
[B]Failure to request then precludes a party for objecting to the introduction of evidence on grounds of failing to hand over evidence. [/B]