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Robinson v. Crown Equipment Corp.

September 26, 2007

JASON ROBINSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CROWN EQUIPMENT CORPORATION DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Defendant's Motion in Limine.*fn1 Plaintiff has not responded.

This is a product liability case based on strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty.*fn2 Plaintiff's foot was crushed by a stand-up forklift that was designed, manufactured, and supplied by Defendant.

Defendant asks that the following be excluded: (1) testimony and evidence of other lawsuits, claims, and settlements involving manufacturers of stand-up forklifts; (2) deposition testimony that was taken in an unrelated case; (3) comments by Plaintiff's lawyer about Defendant's financial worth; (4) reference to or evidence of prior accidents that involved the Defendant's stand-up forklift; (5) evidence regarding sit-down forklifts manufactured by Defendant and others; and (6) Plaintiff's expert's testimony on economic loss. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

1. Evidence of Other Claims

Determining the admissibility of prior accident evidence is within a court's discretion, and such evidence can be relevant if the previous accidents occurred in a manner that was substantially similar to this accident.*fn3 Such evidence can demonstrate Defendant's ability to correct known defects, the magnitude of the danger involved, the product's lack of safety for its intended use, notice of the existence of a defect, standard of care, or causation.*fn4

Plaintiff plans to call five witnesses who filed claims against Defendant and other manufacturers. Defendant contends that this testimony is not relevant. However, if these witnesses were involved in similar accidents, the testimony may be admissible, depending on the purpose for which it is offered. Defendant does not explain the content of the anticipated testimony. So, there is not enough information to reach a pre-trial conclusion, and this part of the motion is DENIED.

2. Deposition Testimony of Witnesses from an Unrelated Case

Any party may use a deposition -- not just the party who took the deposition.*fn5

Moreover, a deposition may be used at trial provided that the conditions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a) are met.*fn6

Those conditions are: (1) the witness is dead; (2) the witness lives over 100 miles away; (3) the witness is too infirm to attend a trial; (4) the witness cannot be subpoenaed; or (5) the witness cannot attend due to other exceptional circumstances. Once it is found that one or more of these conditions is met, it must be determined if the matters contained in it are admissible under the rules of evidence.

Under the rules of evidence, deposition testimony may be used against any party who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition, and had a similar motive to develop testimony by direct, cross, or redirect examination.*fn7

Defendant's counsel states that he did not attend the depositions that Plaintiff intends to use. However, this fact does not bar a deposition's use, as long as another attorney representing Defendant attended the deposition, and had similar motives to cross-examine the deponent. Defendant did not present ...


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