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Mitchell v. City of Tukwila

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 17, 2013

THE CITY OF TUKWILA, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on "Defendant's Motions in Limine " (Dkt. # 63) and "Defendants' Supplemental Motion in Limine Re: Yeoman Testimony" (Dkt. # 79). Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties and the remainder of the record and having considered the arguments presented during the pretrial conference, the Court finds as follows:

1. Officer Gurr's Prior Disciplinary History

Defendants seek to exclude evidence related to prior allegations against Officer Gurr that he used unlawful force as improper character evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence ("Rule") 404. Officer Gurr's prior disciplinary record reveals no sustained complaints of excessive force against Officer Gurr between January 2009 and February 2010 and no liability resulting from litigation. Plaintiff's ยง 1983 claim against the City of Tukwila (the "City") has been dismissed and the City's only remaining potential for liability is under a theory of respondeat superior as Officer Gurr's employer.[1] Whether the City had notice of any allegedly unlawful conduct is not relevant to the remaining claims against Officer Gurr and the Court finds that unsustained allegations of prior use of excessive force is prohibited under Rule 404(b). Defendants' first motion in limine is GRANTED.

2. Other Taser Applications by Tukwila Police Officers

The only substantive claims remaining are Plaintiff's claims against Officer Gurr regarding his use of a taser when he arrested Plaintiff in February 2010. These claims consist of negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or "outrage, " use of excessive force, assault, battery, and general negligence. There are no substantive claims of negligence against the City remaining. Evidence of Defendants' knowledge regarding prior, unrelated taser deployments by Tukwila Police officers other than Officer Gurr does not tend to make a fact of consequence more or less probable. Defendants' second motion in limine is therefore GRANTED.

3. Officer Gurr's Training History

Despite Defendants' arguments to the contrary, the Court finds Officer Gurr's training records relevant to the issues remaining for trial. While it is true that there is no negligent training or supervision claim against the City remaining, evidence regarding how and when Officer Gurr received taser training is relevant to Plaintiff's remaining claims against him. The Court therefore DENIES Defendants' third motion in limine.

4. Post-Arrest Contact with Tukwila Police Department

Defendants seek to prevent Plaintiff from presenting evidence that Tukwila Police Department officers ignored Plaintiffs complaints about Officer Gurr's arrest and attempted to intimidate her after the incident. Dkt. #63 at 2-3. Contrary to Defendants' arguments, the Court finds evidence regarding Plaintiff's post-arrest complaints to the City probative of Plaintiff's claims and Officer Gurr's malicious prosecution counterclaim. Defendants may pursue Plaintiff's "unsubstantiated" allegations of intimidation, dkt., #63 at 3, during cross-examination.

5. Plaintiff's Allegations about Treatment in Jail

Defendants contend that testimony regarding the manner in which Plaintiff was treated while incarcerated following her arrest is not relevant and should be excluded under Rule 403 because it would unfairly influence the jury. Dkt. #63 at 3. In light of the scope of Plaintiff's claim for emotional distress damages, the Court finds that the probative nature of evidence related to Plaintiff's incarceration outweighs the risk of undue prejudice. The precise nature of Plaintiff's alleged mistreatment in prison and Officer Gurr's role in that alleged mistreatment are proper subjects for cross-examination. Defendants' fifth motion in limine is DENIED.

6. Tukwila Police Department Policies

Although Plaintiff's Monell claim against the City has been dismissed, Tukwila Police Department policies regarding use of force and use of a taser are relevant and probative of whether Officer Gurr's conduct was negligent. The ...

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