Trial-Related Issues (Including Motions in Limine)

Motions in Limine

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Old Republic Life Ins. Co. v. Woody, No. E2019-01475-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 14, 2022).

Likewise, a trial court’s decision on a motion in limine is subject to the abuse of discretion standard of review. Allen v. Albea, 476 S.W.3d 366, 377 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015). Our Supreme Court has further expanded upon the abuse of discretion standard of review as follows:

This Court has described the abuse of discretion standard in some detail:

The abuse of discretion standard of review envisions a less rigorous review of the lower court’s decision and a decreased likelihood that the decision will be reversed on appeal. It reflects an awareness that the decision being reviewed involved a choice among several acceptable alternatives. Thus, it does not permit reviewing courts to second-guess the court below, or to substitute their discretion for the lower court’s. The abuse of discretion standard of review does not, however, immunize a lower court’s decision from any meaningful appellate scrutiny.

Discretionary decisions must take the applicable law and the relevant facts into account. An abuse of discretion occurs when a court strays beyond the applicable legal standards or when it fails to properly consider the factors customarily used to guide the particular discretionary decision. A court abuses its discretion when it causes an injustice to the party challenging the decision by (1) applying an incorrect legal standard, (2) reaching an illogical or unreasonable decision, or (3) basing its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.

Lee Med., Inc. v. Beecher, 312 S.W.3d 515, 524 (Tenn. 2010) (citations omitted); see also BIF, a Div. of Gen. Signals Controls, Inc. v. Serv. Const. Co., No. 87-136-II, 1988 WL 72409, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 13, 1988) (citations omitted) (“The standard conveys two notions. First, it indicates that the trial court has the authority to choose among several legally permissible, sometimes even conflicting, answers. Second, it indicates that the appellate court will not interfere with the trial court’s decision simply because it did not choose the alternative the appellate court would have chosen.”).

Lee Medical provided the framework for determining whether a trial court has properly exercised its discretion:

To avoid result-oriented decisions or seemingly irreconcilable precedents, reviewing courts should review a lower court’s discretionary decision to determine (1) whether the factual basis for the decision is properly supported by evidence in the record, (2) whether the lower court properly identified and applied the most appropriate legal principles applicable to the decision, and (3) whether the lower court’s decision was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions.

Lee Med., 312 S.W.3d at 524-25 (citing Flautt & Mann v. Council of City of Memphis, 285 S.W.3d 856, 872-73 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008) (quoting BIF, 1988 WL 72409, at *3)); see also Vodafone Americas Holdings, Inc. & Subsidiaries v. Roberts, 486 S.W.3d 496, 514 (Tenn. 2016).

Harmon v. Hickman Cmty. Healthcare Servs., Inc., 594 S.W.3d 297, 305-06 (Tenn. 2020). “A trial court abuses its discretion only when it applies an incorrect legal standard, or reaches a decision which is against logic or reasoning that causes an injustice to the party complaining. The abuse of discretion standard does not permit the appellate court to substitute its judgment for that of the trial court.” Borne v. Celadon Trucking Servs., Inc., 532 S.W.3d 274, 294 (Tenn. 2017) (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citations omitted).


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