Where defendants in a vehicle motor vehicle accident filed a motion to preclude the injured party’s counsel from employing “Golden Rule” arguments, also referred to as “Reptile Theory” tactics, at trial, the motion was dismissed as premature. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that they intended to focus on the defendant and his behavior, and had no intention of offering any argument that makes the jury “afraid of all tractor-trailers.”
Defendants Western Express and Worthy have filed a motion in limine to preclude plaintiff Le Doux’s counsel from employing “Golden Rule” arguments, also referred to as “Reptile Theory” tactics, at trial. The Supreme Court of Virginia has “repeatedly held that counsel may not, in closing argument, invoke the so-called ‘Golden Rule.’”
Defendants claim that plaintiff “wants the jury to become afraid of all tractor-trailers and project that fear onto Worthy and his behavior in this case.” They argue that “any references such as ‘keeping our community safe,’ ‘we need to keep the roads safe from these commercial vehicles,’ ‘we need to send a message’ or any other such generalizations about community safety necessarily implicates the Golden Rule because the jurors are part of that community.”
Plaintiff opposes the motion as premature. Plaintiff’s counsel claims that they “have no intention of offering any argument” that makes the jury “afraid of all tractor-trailers” and instead they plan to focus on Worthy and his behavior.
The court has no reason to believe that plaintiff’s counsel will employ improper “Golden Rule” or “Reptile Theory” arguments, especially considering plaintiff’s opposition brief. Defendants, in support of their motion, reference the questions that plaintiff’s counsel asked Worthy during his deposition about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSR, and the commercial driver’s license manual. They also reference the questions that plaintiff’s counsel asked about the FMCSR to Clarence Easterday during his deposition.
However, the fact that plaintiff’s counsel asked about general safety standards during depositions does not support, or even give rise to a plausible inference, that plaintiff’s counsel will ask the jury how they wish to be treated while driving on Interstate 81 or argue that the jury should be afraid of all tractor-trailers. As in other cases addressing similar motions, the court “agrees that this motion is premature and presents vague challenges to [plaintiff’s] style of argument rather than to any evidence that [plaintiff] intend[s] to introduce.”
Defendants’ motion in limine denied.
Paul v. Western Express Inc., Case No. 6:20-cv-51, March 30, 2023. WDVA at Lynchburg (Moon). VLW 023-3-172. 2 pp.