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Downs v. River City Group, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 13, 2015

LINDA DOWNS, Plaintiff,
RIVER CITY GROUP, LLC; et al., Defendants.


LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.

Before the court are defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s ("Wells Fargo") three remaining pretrial motions in limine: (1) motion in limine to exclude other litigation, complaints, investigations, settlements, or other unrelated matters (Doc. #281[1]); (2) motion in limine to exclude Beverly Paschal's and Dr. Richard Harris' testimony (Doc. #299); and (3) motion in limine to exclude expert Thomas Tarter (Doc. #302). Plaintiff Linda Downs ("Downs") filed oppositions to each of Wells Fargo's motions (Doc. ##310, 346, 345 respectively) to which Wells Fargo replied (Doc. ##321, 352, 353).

I. Facts and Procedural History

In July, 2005, Downs, along with her husband Ronald, purchased real property through a mortgage note and deed of trust. In early December 2009, Downs and her husband purchased a mortgage payment protection insurance policy advertised by defendant Wells Fargo and underwritten by defendant Minnesota Life Insurance Company ("Minnesota Life"). The policy provided for twelve (12) monthly payments of $2, 398.23 - the amount of the Downs' monthly mortgage payment - to Wells Fargo in the event of Ronald's death.

On May 31, 2010, Ronald passed away. On June 10, 2010, Downs contacted both Wells Fargo and Minnesota Life, notified them of Ronald's passing, and requested disbursement of the payments pursuant to the mortgage insurance policy. On August 18, 2010, Minnesota Life approved Downs' claim for payment, and sent Wells Fargo a check for $9, 572.92 - the amount owed for the mortgage payments from May 2010, through August 2010. Thereafter, Minnesota Life made payments in accord with the payment schedule as prescribed under the policy. However, prior to the disbursement of funds in August 2010, Wells Fargo initiated non-judicial foreclosure proceedings against the underlying property.

Subsequently, Downs filed a complaint alleging ten causes of action against all defendants: (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (2) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (3) breach of contract; (4) breach of the implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing; (5) unfair claims practices; (6) conspiracy to defraud; (7) negligence; (8) invasion of privacy; (9) unjust enrichment; and (10) quiet title. Doc. #1, Ex. A. After a series of motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, the only remaining defendant is defendant Wells Fargo.

On January 12, 2015, Wells Fargo filed the present motions in limine to address various evidentiary issues related to some of Downs' anticipated exhibits and witnesses. The court shall address each motion below.

II. Legal Standard

A motion in limine is used to preclude prejudicial or objectionable evidence before it is presented to the jury. Stephanie Hoit Lee & David N. Finley, Federal Motions in Limine ยง 1:1 (2012). The decision on a motion in limine is consigned to the district court's discretion-including the decision of whether to rule before trial at all. See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (noting that a court may wait to resolve the evidentiary issues at trial, where the evidence can be viewed in its "proper context"). Motions in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or to weigh evidence, and evidence should not be excluded prior to trial unless "the evidence [is] inadmissible on all potential grounds." See, e.g., Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Even then, rulings on these motions are not binding on the trial judge, and they may be changed in response to developments at trial. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984).

Generally, all relevant evidence is admissible. FED. R. EVID. 402. Evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." FED. R. EVID. 401. The determination of whether evidence is relevant to an action or issue is expansive and inclusive. See Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384-87 (2008). However, the court may exclude otherwise relevant evidence "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice." FED. R. EVID. 403. Further, evidence may be excluded when there is a significant danger that the jury might base its decision on emotion or when non-party events would distract reasonable jurors from the real issues in a case. See Tennison v. Circus Circus Enterprises, Inc., 244 F.3d 684, 690 (9th Cir. 2001); United States v. Layton, 767 F.2d 549, 556 (9th Cir. 1985).

III. Discussion

A. Motion in Limine to Exclude Other Litigation, Complaints, Investigations, Settlements, or Other Unrelated Matters (Doc. #281)

In her proposed exhibits and witness lists, Downs seeks to offer evidence of other litigation involving Wells Fargo, in particular evidence of Dollens v. Wells Fargo, as well as evidence involving a settlement between Wells Fargo and the Comptroller of the Currency. In the present motion, Wells Fargo seeks to exclude all evidence, testimony, and ...

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