Failure to Renew Evidentiary Objections Raised in Motion in Limine Waives Appellate Review

Baldwin County Electric Membership Corp. v. City of Fairhope, No. 1060475 (Ala. February 1, 2008) serves as a good reminder of the requirement that evidentiary objections made in motions in limine must generally be renewed at trial in order to be preserved for appellate review.  

A jury returned a verdict against Baldwin County in this action between two electric suppliers.  On appeal, the county argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in admitting a particular oral territory service agreement.  At trial, Baldwin County filed a motion in limine pertaining to the agreement which was denied by the trial court.  The county did not, however, make a timely objection to the evidence at trial. 

The failure to object at trial resulted in the waiver of the county’s appellate argument regarding the admission of the oral territory service agreement.  The court stated: 

A motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence, which is denied by the trial court, is unless the court clearly indicates to the contrary, the legal equivalent of an announcement by the trial court that it reserves the right to rule on the subject evidence when it is offered and is not a final ruling made in a pre-trial order.  An appellant who suffers an adverse ruling on a motion to exclude evidence, made in limine, preserves this adverse ruling for post-judgment and appellate review only if he objects to the introduction of the proffered evidence and assigns specific grounds therefore at the time of the trial, unless he has obtained the express acquiescence of the trial court that subsequent objection to evidence when it is proffered at trial and assignment of grounds therefore are not necessary.

In denying the motion in limine, the trial court stated "I am going to deny the motion in limine as to the oral agreement.  I think we have got some other matters."  Although the court found that the oral agreement issue was dispositive, the record did not reflect that the trial court "clearly indicated" that further objections to the evidence were unnecessary or that the county obtained the "express acquiesence" of the trial court that subsequent objections to such evidence were not required. 

As a result, the motion in limine was insufficient to preserve the issue for appeal.