Ballou was killed in a traffic accident with one of
Henri's trucks. Ballou's relatives sued Henri for damages for wrongful
At Trial, Henri attempted to introduce evidence that
Ballou was drunk at the time of the accident.
Ballou's relatives made a motion in limine to
exclude the evidence.
A motion in limine means that you are making the
objection to the judge before the opposing side begins presenting
the evidence in court.
You want to know whether the information is admissible
or not because you want to prepare for trial better.
This is the opposite of a contemporaneous objection,
where, in the middle of testimony, a lawyer says, "Stop! I object!"
Henri had a forensic report saying that Ballou's blood
alcohol level was high.
Ballou's relatives had the testimony of a person who
spoke to Ballou a few minutes before the car accident, saying that he
didn't appear drunk.
They also refuted the accuracy of the forensic test.
The Trial Judge excluded the evidence based on FRE 403.
FRE 403 says that a court may exclude evidence if
its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
The Trial Judge felt that the forensic analysis lacked
credibility on the basis of the testimony of Ballou's witness.
The Trial Court found for Ballou. Henri appealed.
The Appellate Court vacated the judgment and ordered a new
trial on the grounds that the evidence had been improperly excluded.
The Appellate Court felt that the determination of who's
evidence was more credible (Henri's blood test vs. Ballou's witness) was
a decision that a jury should make, not the Trial Judge.
The Appellate Court agreed that the results of the
forensic analysis could be prejudicial to a jury, but that "all
evidence is prejudicial or it isn't material." That's the point of
evidence. FRE 403 should only come into effect when the evidence
is somehow 'unfair'.
Ballou's relatives would be allowed to present their argument
that the forensic analysis was flawed, but the analysis itself should
not be excluded solely on the basis that it might influence the jury.