United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MICHAEL A. SHIPP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon the in limine
motion by Defendant Siemens Demag Delaval Turbomachinery,
Inc. ("Defendant") to exclude Plaintiff Eddie
Clarke's ("Clarke") jury from hearing evidence
related to Plaintiff Solomon Daniels'
("Daniels") "interactions in the welding
department." (ECF No. 55-1.. The Court reviewed the
parties' submissions and heard oral argument on February
22, 2018. For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum Order,
and for other good cause shown, Defendant's motion is
a consolidated matter, originally filed as two actions under
docket numbers 15-3089 and 15-2234. In connection with the
in limine motions, Defendant moved the Court for an
order excluding testimony regarding certain interactions
between Daniels and co-workers in the welding department from
the Clarke jury. (Def.'s Moving Br. 6-9, ECF No. 55-1.)
Implicit in the motion, although not explicitly moved upon,
is a request for two juries, which the Court previously
indicated it might consider. Defendant argues that because
the welding department incidents occurred away from Clarke,
it would be irrelevant, unduly prejudicial, and confusing for
the jury evaluating Clarke's claim to hear the evidence
related to Daniels. Defendant argues that because the welding
department (where Daniels works) is in a different building
than where Clarke works, and involved conflicts with
individuals that Clarke admittedly did not directly interact
with, this evidence should be excluded from Clarke's
case, through the use of two juries. (Id. at 2-9.)
Plaintiffs respond that the interactions are all relevant to
both Plaintiffs' claims as they occurred at the same
facility, around the same period in time, involve overlapping
supervisory and human resource personnel, and go to the
fundamental issues of the hostile work environment claims and
Defendant's knowledge of the issues. (Pis.' Opp'n
Br. 1-9, ECF No. 57.)
Court has reviewed the implicit request to seat two juries
and considered the arguments set forth on the record on
February 22, 2018, and hereby finds that one jury is
appropriate to adjudicate the claims. The Court is cognizant
that Clarke did not directly witness the interactions in the
welding department, and therefore, as to Clarke, the
situation is the equivalent of admitting evidence of
harassment of people in a protected class who are not the
plaintiff. The Supreme Court and the Third Circuit, however,
have recognized the potential probative value of such
evidence. See Sprint/United Mgmt. v. Mendelsohn, 552
U.S. 379, 383-84 (2008); Hurley v. All. City Police
Dep't, 174 F.3d 95, 111 (3d Cir. 1999); West v.
Phila. Elec Co., 45 F.3d 744, 756-57 (3d Cir. 1995).
Importantly, this type of evidence is not subject to any
per se rule on admissibility. Mendelsohn,
552 U.S. at 383. Instead, the Court must evaluate the
evidence under Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403.
Id. at 384.
evidence to be admissible, it must be relevant. Fed.R.Evid.
402. Relevant evidence is defined as evidence having
"any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than
it would be without the evidence" and "the fact is
of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid.
401. A court may nevertheless exclude relevant evidence
"if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a
danger of. . . unfair prejudice, confusing the issues,
misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly
presenting cumulative evidence." Fed.R.Evid. 403
Court, therefore, must consider first whether the evidence is
relevant and, if so, whether it should nevertheless be
excluded on the basis of unfair prejudice. Evidence of acts
of harassment as to other individuals can be "extremely
probative as to whether the harassment was  discriminatory
and whether the [employer] knew or should have known"
about the alleged harassment "despite the formal
existence of an anti-harassment policy."
Hurley, 174 F.3d 95 at 111 (citing West, 45
F.3d at 752). Importantly, such evidence may "help the
jury interpret otherwise ambiguous acts" and establish
motives, attitudes, the character of a work environment, the
effectiveness of an anti-harassment policy, the
employer's knowledge of the alleged hostile environment,
and assist the jury's evaluation of an employer's
defenses to liability. See Hurley, 174 F.3d at
111-12; Llerena v. J.B. Hanauer Co., 368 N.J.Super.
256, 262-63 (Law. Div. 2002).
Plaintiffs have overlapping hostile work environment claims.
Plaintiffs were employed throughout essentially the same time
period and both worked at the same plant, albeit in two
separate buildings. Plaintiffs were supervised by common
upper management and both reportedly complained about racial
hostility to the same human resources professional.
Plaintiffs were also contemporaneously sharing information
about their own experiences, and consequently, even though
Clarke did not witness the incidents in the welding
department, he had contemporaneous knowledge of the events
through his conversations with Daniels. (Pis.' Opp'n
Br. 5.) The Court, therefore, finds that the interactions in
the welding department, the complaints to management, and the
company's response are relevant to each Plaintiffs
next question, therefore, is whether the evidence is unduly
prejudicial. "When conducting a Rule 403 inquiry, the
Court must balance the probative value of and the need for
the evidence against the harm likely to result from its
admission." Lanni v. New Jersey, 177 F.R.D.
295, 301-02 (D.N.J. 1998) (internal citation omitted).
"Evidence is unfairly prejudicial only if it
has;an undue tendency to suggest decision on an
improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an
emotional one.'" Carter v. Hewitt, 617 F.2d
961, 972 (3d Cir. 1980) (quoting advisory committee note to
Fed.R.Evid. 403). Evidence can also be unduly prejudicial if
it "arouses [the jury's] sense of horror, provokes
[the jury's] instinct to punish, or otherwise may cause a
jury to base its decision on something other than the
established propositions in the case." Carter,
617 F.2d at 972 (internal citations omitted). Federal Rule of
Evidence 403 '"does not offer protection against
evidence that is merely prejudicial, in the sense of being
detrimental to a party's case.'" United
States v. Hagins, 452 Fed.Appx. 141, 148 (3d Cir. 2011)
(quoting Carter, 617 F.2d at 972).
argues that the court in Moorhouse v. Boeing Co.,
501 F.Supp. 390 (E.D. Pa. 1980), "noted the danger of
atrial involving the claims of multiple plaintiffs."
(Def.'s Moving Br. 8.) Defendant also argues that a jury
"would hear extensive testimony about the welding
department conflict and could improperly attribute those
factual scenarios to Clarke's case, which would be
unfairly prejudicial to Siemens's defense."
(Id. at 9.) The Court finds Moorhouse
distinguishable. Moorhouse involved six different
cases, with different individual defendants in each case, and
different time periods involved. If the actions were
consolidated, "the trial would have involved six
plaintiffs ... and 16 individually named defendants .. .
[and] a jury would have faced a hopeless task-----"
Moorhouse, 501 F.Supp. at 392. The same concerns are
not present here. This consolidated action involves two
Plaintiffs and one Defendant. The Court is not persuaded that
the jury will have difficulty distinguishing the experiences
of each Plaintiff. Moreover, the appropriate considerations
for liability as to each claim can be addressed through
carefully crafted jury instructions.
also raised the issue of prejudice from the inflammatory
nature of some of the welding department issues. Certain
allegations do have the potential to invoke significant
emotions, for example, the noose Daniels found in the locker
room of the welding department. Nevertheless, after weighing
the probative importance of this information to the
jury's overall ability to understand the claims, and the
ability to issue appropriate limiting instructions, the Court
does not believe that the potential prejudice warrants
exclusion. Defendant will have the opportunity to offer
evidence in defense and allow the jury to fully and
completely evaluate the information presented by both sides.
Defendant's motion, therefore, is denied.
Court notes, however, that this Order does not rule on the
admissibility of specific evidence. The "welding
department interactions" referenced in Defendant's
brief are vague and lack specificity as to the exact evidence
at issue. In opposition, Plaintiffs raise several issues that
occurred in the welding department that are not addressed in
Defendant's brief. At this time, the Court is not in a
position to make a determination as to the admissibility of
any individual piece of evidence that pertains to the welding
department. The Court, therefore, will address any specific
objections at trial.
for the reasons set forth above, and for other good cause
shown, IT IS on this 1st day of March, 2018, ORDERED that
Defendant's motion is DENIED and one jury will hear the