Developing Your Motions in Limine for the Florida Courtroom

Author: Kathryn Lee Colgan

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April 4, 2018 9:11am

Motion in Limine translates to motion “at the threshold.” When properly used, Motions in Limine have the ability to drastically limit and focus the jury on key issues, diminish the length of trial, and lead to favorable settlements or verdicts. Motions in Limine can also help eliminate the need to lodge repetitive objections during trials, as not even the most experienced trial lawyer can predict a specific jury’s perception of persistent objections coming from the defense table.

The Benefit of Motions in Limine

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.200, subdivision (a)(6) specifically authorizes the use of Motions in Limine for case management by the court. Precise argument and implementation by defense counsel can help eliminate and weaken some significant issues plaintiff plans to present. Motions in Limine additionally provide some insight as to what may or may not be admissible in the trial. The court, in granting said motions, precludes any party from advising the trier of fact of the existence, or non-existence, of the matter prohibited until further ruling by the court. See, Harris v. Grunow, Jr. and O.R. Golf 3 Partners, LTD, 71 So.3d 186, 189 (Fla. 3rd DCA September 28, 2011) [“Motion in Limine; Evidence Regarding Settlements”].

Step One: Develop a Game Plan Before Preparing Your Motions

Motions in Limine can be a crucial tool in preparing your case for trial. Thus, preparation of Motions in Limine should not be reserved for the eve of trial scramble. Instead, you and your trial team should prepare a game plan. Meet early with your “trial team,” prior to key witness and expert depositions, and attempt to pick through plaintiff’s case with a fine-tooth comb.

Primarily, you should identify, plaintiff’s themes, strategy and ultimate goals. For example, are plaintiffs relying on any objective scientific or medical evidence? Or are plaintiffs leaning heavily on the circumstances surrounding the incident and those involved to incite anger and/or sympathy within a jury?  By identifying plaintiff’s end game early on, you can pick apart plaintiff’s theme during depositions and in the exchange of written discovery. This will help you formulate a solid Motions in Limine, supported by the evidence developed during the early discovery phase.

Step Two: Research Opposing Experts

Second, as soon as you are able, identify plaintiff’s key expert witnesses. Once the experts are selected, take the time to obtain information from the expert’s past deposition and trial testimony. This will enable you to assess said expert’s strengths, weaknesses and biases. Looking into plaintiff’s expert’s backgrounds will additionally assist the defense in determining whether plaintiff’s proposed experts are qualified, and help the defense focus in on certain areas of expertise to attack and discredit during expert deposition. This will help to strengthen the foundation for one of the most important Motions in Limine: the exclusion or disqualification of expert witnesses.

Step Three: Search Plaintiff’s Social Media

Finally, early in the matter, run social media searches on plaintiff and plaintiff’s close associates or friends. At times, and when completed promptly, social media searches can reveal a whole treasure chest of gems related to a plaintiff’s past and present conduct and activities. Utilizing this step could in turn help you defeat plaintiff’s expected Motions in Limine that certain photographs or information are more prejudicial than probative. If you can present the court with hard evidence, including photographs and dates which directly refute and/or discredits plaintiff’s claims, the more likely the court is to allow the evidence to go before the jury.

Final Thought

Motions in Limine are crucial to the overall outcome of your case. A strategically minded lawyer and trial team begin to develop their Motions in Limine early to assure they are poking crucial holes in plaintiff’s case well before the trial begins.

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