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Zarfaty v. Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 31, 2019

GARDEN FRESH RESTAURANT CORP., doing business as Sweet Tomatoes, Defendant.

          OMNIBUS ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE (ECF NOS. [72], [73], [75], [76], [77], [78])


         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon the Motion in Limine filed by Plaintiff, ECF No. [72] (“Plaintiff's Motion”), and multiple Motions in Limine filed by Defendant, ECF Nos. [73], [75], [76], [77], [78] (collectively, “Defendant's Motions”). The Court has carefully reviewed Plaintiff's Motion, Defendant's Motions, all opposing and supporting submissions, the record in this case and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion is denied. Defendant's Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts of the case. In Plaintiff's Motion, Plaintiff moves to preclude Defendant from introducing evidence of its lack of notice of falls occurring on water in its beverage area. In Defendant's Motions, Defendant seeks bifurcation of the issues of gross negligence and punitive damages from the negligence and compensatory damages determinations, and seeks to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence of subsequent claims, claims history at other restaurant locations, information about Defendant's loss reserves, and evidence of insurance.


         “In fairness to the parties and their ability to put on their case, a court should exclude evidence in limine only when it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” United States v. Gonzalez, 718 F.Supp.2d 1341, 1345 (S.D. Fla. 2010). “Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy, and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.” In re Seroquel Products Liab. Litig., 2009 WL 260989, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 4, 2009).

         Evidence is admissible if relevant, and evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to prove or disprove a fact of consequence. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402; United States v. Patrick, 513 Fed.Appx. 882, 886 (11th Cir. 2013). A district court may exclude relevant evidence under Rule 403 if “its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting of time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. “Rule 403 is an extraordinary remedy which the district court should invoke sparingly, and the balance should be struck in favor of admissibility.” Patrick, 513 Fed.Appx. at 886 (citing United States v. Lopez, 649 F.3d 1222, 1247 (11th Cir. 2011) and United States v. Alfaro-Moncada, 607 F.3d 720, 734 (11th Cir. 2010)). The movant has the burden to demonstrate that the evidence is inadmissible. Gonzalez, 718 F.Supp.2d at 1345.

         Through this lens, the Court considers Plaintiff's Motion and Defendant's Motions.


         A. Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. [72])

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant should be precluded from introducing any evidence with respect to Defendant's lack of notice. This is based upon an inconsistency in the testimony of Defendant's corporate representative, Tony Berard, with respect to testimony given by Defendant's Plantation manager Stacie Marcus in another slip and fall case against Defendant. Plaintiff argues that the inconsistency belies the position that Defendant lacked actual or constructive notice of water on its beverage area tile floor, and that Defendant has abused the judicial process by presenting manufactured fraudulent testimony. As such, Plaintiff contends that any such evidence should be excluded under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Defendant vehemently disputes Plaintiff's contention and characterization of the inconsistency and Mr. Berard's testimony. Upon review, the Court determines that there is no basis under Rule 403 to exclude evidence of lack of notice based upon the alleged inconsistency, and Plaintiff is free to cross-examine Mr. Berard at trial to explore any alleged inconsistency. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion is denied.

         B. Defendant's Motions

         i. Bifurcation of gross negligence and punitive damages (ECF No. [73])

         Defendant argues that the Court should allow separate trials on the issues of negligence and gross negligence/punitive damages in this case in order to prevent juror confusion with respect to the different standards of liability applicable to negligence and gross negligence. Moreover, Defendant argues that bifurcation is necessary to prevent highly prejudicial evidence relevant only to the issue of punitive damages from being presented to the jury when they are determining negligence liability. In response, Plaintiff contends that bifurcation is improper because the evidence and witnesses for both the negligence and gross negligence claims are the same, and the causation and compensatory damages issues are the same. However, Plaintiff recognizes that there is a basis ...

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