Plata v. Eureka Locker, Inc.

Dead Man’s Act barred testimony regarding now-deceased employer’s response to being told employee would file a worker’s compensation claim. Plata sued Eureka under 42 U.S.C. 2000e, claiming that he was fired in retaliation for having filed such a claim. He claimed that Bittner, Eureka’s owner, told him he was “done” after he told Bittner that he intended to file the claim. Bittner died suddenly, leaving Plata the only witness to the conversation. Eureka cited the Illinois Dead Man’s Act, 735 ILCS 5/8-301, which “forbids a party to a suit by or against a firm to testify about any conversation with a dead agent of the firm, unless a living agent of the firm was also present.” Federal Rule of Evidence 601 states that “in a civil case, state law governs the witness’s competency regarding a claim or defense for which state law supplies the rule of decision.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Plata could testify that he had told Bittner that he intended to file a claim, but could not testify to Bittner’s response. The courts rejected the federal claims as time-barred and unsupported by evidence, noting that Plata was a difficult litigant, whose lawyer was allowed to withdraw after Plata refused to respond to discovery requests. View "Plata v. Eureka Locker, Inc." on Justia Law