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Weidner v. Sanchez - 14 S.W.3d 353 (Tex. App. 2000)

Rule:

A motion in limine is a procedural device that permits a party to identify, before trial, certain evidentiary rulings that the court may be asked to make. The purpose of a motion in limine is to prevent the other party from asking prejudicial questions and introducing prejudicial evidence in front of the jury without first asking the court's permission. The cumulative effect of repeated violations of a trial court's order in limine may be grounds for reversal.

Facts:

Appellant cab company contracted to transport handicapped passengers. While transporting appellee, appellant cab driver ran a stop sign, resulting in collision in which appellee was injured. A jury found for appellee and awarded damages in excess of actual damages sought in her amended petition. Appellants contend the trial court erred by overruling its motion for mistrial because Sanchez deliberately violated the trial court's ruling on a pretrial motion in limine. Appellants claim they staked the credibility of their case on a medical record composed a year before Sanchez's accident in which Sanchez's cardiologist wrote that she had experienced pain in the back of her neck, shoulder and spine traveling down to her leg and that she had been going to a chiropractor for 15 years. Sanchez's trial attorney produced no documents before trial to contradict this notation, but indicated during the offer of exhibits that there would be evidence to contradict it. Appellants secured a pretrial order on a motion in limine to preclude the use of or disclosure of the contents of any documents that were requested and not timely produced or supplemented before trial.

Issue:

Was there a violation of the motion in limine that significantly violated the judicial process and fundamentally prejudiced and damaged appellant’s case?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The record did not support appellants' claims. First, appellants did not make a timely objection to Sanchez's first violation of the motion in limine, thus evidence suggesting the content of the letter subject to the motion was admitted.  An objection is timely if made immediately after the statement is made or the error is waived.  By the time Weidner's trial counsel objected that Sanchez's daughter was being asked to testify from a document not admitted into evidence or produced, the jury had already heard, without objection, that Sanchez had not seen a chiropractor for approximately 10 years and that Sanchez's daughter had a letter from a chiropractor that supported her testimony. The trial court acted decisively in admonishing Sanchez's trial counsel on his violations of the motions in limine and in instructing the jury to disregard the evidence. The evidence about Sanchez's treatment or lack of treatment by a chiropractor was relevant to whether Sanchez's complaints were related to injuries she incurred in the accident and to impeach Gordon's testimony. The probative value of such evidence was not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, even though mention of the letter violated the motion in limine.

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