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Roswick v. Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C.

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

August 1, 2019

Dr. Robert J. Roswick, Plaintiff,
v.
Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C., Defendant.

          J. Ashwin Madia, Esq., Madia Law LLC,, Minneapolis, MN on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Scott K. Porsborg, Esq., and Sarah E. Wall, Esq., Smith Porsborg Schweigert Armstrong Moldenhauer & Smith, Bismarck, ND, on behalf of Defendant.

          ORDER ON PRETRIAL MOTIONS

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for rulings on Defendant Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C.'s (“MDC”) Motions in Limine [Docket Nos. 105, 107, 109, 111, 156, 158, 160, 162, and 164] and Motion for Hearing [Docket No. 173], and Plaintiff Dr. Robert J. Roswick's (“Dr. Roswick”) Motions in Limine [Docket Nos. 114, 145, and 152].

         II. DISCUSSION

         Dr. Roswick alleges he was suspended by MDC's Board of Directors (“Board”) and subsequently terminated by MDC's physician shareholders in retaliation for opposing MDC's “racially discriminatory actions” allegedly taken against Dr. Jayaram Bharadwaj (“Dr. Bharadwaj”), an Indian-American physician. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 23, 34. MDC denies the allegations and argues Dr. Roswick was suspended and terminated for filing a false complaint of discrimination, not for engaging in protected conduct. MDC argues that Dr. Roswick's false allegation was the cause of his suspension and termination, the “last straw” in a history of disruptive behavior since he resigned as the Medical Director of MDC.

         A jury trial on Dr. Roswick's retaliation claim is scheduled for August 5, 2019. The parties have filed a number of pretrial motions. Based on the memoranda and documents filed to date, the Court makes the following preliminary rulings.[1] These rulings are intended to assist the parties in tailoring their evidence to expedite the presentation of testimony at trial. The parties may renew their arguments on the admissibility of evidence if the evidence at trial differs from the discussion here. An opportunity for preserving objections to these rulings will be provided on the first day of trial.

         A. MDC's Motions in Limine

         1. Motion to Exclude Evidence of Insurance

         MDC argues that any evidence of MDC's insurance coverage is not admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 411, which prohibits the admission of insurance coverage for the purpose of proving fault. Roswick responds that he does not intend to introduce evidence of insurance coverage unless MDC opens the door to evidence of insurance by introducing evidence or argument regarding MDC's ability to pay a large verdict.

         MDC's motion to exclude evidence of insurance is GRANTED. If Dr. Roswick contends at trial that a door has been opened to allow the evidence of insurance coverage, he must first obtain a ruling reversing the exclusion of evidence of insurance.

         2. Motion to Exclude Evidence Regarding Opinions of Plaintiff's Job Performance of Non-Decisionmakers

         MDC argues that evidence of non-decisionmakers' opinions regarding Dr. Roswick's competency as a physician are inadmissible on the issue of whether MDC retaliated against him. Dr. Roswick argues that the evidence is relevant to rebut MDC's argument that Dr. Roswick engaged in a pattern of disruptive behavior. MDC's assertions of a pattern of disruptive behavior were first documented in an October 2014 letter from the Board to Dr. Roswick. The letter, sent approximately three months before Dr. Roswick complained of discrimination against Dr. Bharadwaj, outlined six instances in which the Board perceived Dr. Roswick to have engaged in disruptive behavior. The Board stated that if the disruptive behaviors did not cease it would take disciplinary action that could result in termination. Dr. Roswick argues the allegations of disruptive incidents occurring prior to October 2014 are false, and he seeks to introduce evidence of non-decisionmakers to rebut the allegations.

         Whether Dr. Roswick's behavior prior to October 2014 was in fact disruptive (as perceived by the Board) or was in fact proper (as perceived by Dr. Roswick) is not relevant to whether MDC retaliated against Dr. Roswick in 2015 for asserting a good faith, objectively reasonable claim of discrimination. The only relevance of the six incidents is to show that the Board perceived Dr. Roswick's behavior as disruptive. Therefore, evidence of the facts and circumstances underlying the pre-October 2014 incidents is inadmissible. Evidence underlying the pre-October 2014 incidents also threatens to confuse the jury and cause undue delay by creating mini trials on irrelevant issues.

         Similarly, evidence to Dr. Roswick's competency as a physician or his character for truthfulness are irrelevant to whether MDC retaliated against Dr. Roswick in 2015 for asserting a good faith and reasonably objective claim of discrimination. Therefore, such evidence is not admissible. MDC's motion to exclude evidence regarding non-decisionmakers' opinions regarding Dr. Roswick's job performance is GRANTED.

         3. Motion to Exclude Evidence Regarding Plaintiff's ...


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