Friday, December 12, 2014

In Limines ...

Scott v. C.R. Bard, Inc., No F066039 (D5 Nov. 19, 2014)

Defendant appeals a plaintiff verdict in a medical device defect case. Defendant moved in limine to keep out evidence regardling certain actions that the FDA took related to its product that occurred after plaintiff was injured. The trial court granted the motion. But then during opening statement, defense counsel made a big deal of the fact the FDA continued to monitor and regulate the product and had taken no action to recall it. The trial court decided that defendant had opened the door and let the post-injury FDA evidence come in. 

According to the court of appeal, the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in doing so. Defendant’s own acts made the evidence relevant. It also was not excludable as a subsequent remedial measure under Evidence Code § 1151 because it did not concern acts by the defendant, to which the subsequent remedial measures rule is limited. Nor did § 352 merit exclusion. Plenty of context regarding the FDA’s actions was admitted, minimizing any risk of prejudice or confusion. And the court did not err by reversing its in limine ruling. In limine rulings are always provisional and subject to reconsiseration during trial.

The court also rejects a cross appeal by plaintiff on an asserted instructional error. The jury found that plaintiff’s doctor—who was not joined as a party—was forty percent at fault. But the jury wasn't actually instructed on the med-mal standard of care. Problem is, plaintiffs never requested such an instruction. Because properly instructing the jury on scope of the doctor’s duty of care was in the interest of plaintiffs, by failing to propose the instruction, plaintiffs invited the error and are estopped from asserting it on appeal.


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