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Day v. Forman Automotive Group

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 18, 2015

VAL DAY, et al., Plaintiff(s),


JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court are seven motions in limine filed by defendant Forman Automotive, Inc. d/b/a United Nissan (hereinafter "defendant"). (Doc. # 92). Plaintiff Val Day (hereinafter "plaintiff") filed a response. (Doc. # 96).

I. Background

The instant case involves claims of racial discrimination in violation of Title VII by plaintiff Val Day against his former employer, defendant United Nissan. Defendant employed plaintiff from October 5, 2008, to May 18, 2010, as an auto salesman. Plaintiff alleges that several specific incidents took place throughout his employment in which members of defendant's management staff used racial slurs and referred to him using derogatory racial epithets. (Doc. # 43).

Specifically, he recounts that in a business meeting in 2009, Donald Forman, the owner of United Nissan, stated that the dealership was going to hold a "niggeration sale" following the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Plaintiff also states that, throughout his employment, Nick Vosdoganis, the general sales manager of United Nissan, would frequently refer to plaintiff as "Sambo." Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Vosdoganis was never reprimanded for these derogatory remarks. (Doc. # 43).

On May 18, 2010, a physical altercation broke out between plaintiff and Chris Cadot, another auto salesman employed by defendant. The incident occurred when Mr. Cadot began working with a customer who had originally approached plaintiff Day about purchasing a vehicle. Plaintiff confronted Mr. Cadot, and an argument ensued. The argument escalated into yelling, and Mr. Cadot struck plaintiff in the eye. Shortly after, Ron Wheeler, a general sales manager at United Nissan, broke up the argument. As he walked away, plaintiff was bleeding from a cut above his right eye. (Doc. # 43).

Mr. Wheeler then allegedly told plaintiff to go home. At this time, plaintiff walked into the parts department of the dealership, retrieved a metal pipe, and proceeded back toward the showroom. When plaintiff was about to enter the showroom, United Nissan's general manager, Robert Plakinger, told plaintiff not to enter the showroom with the metal pipe. Despite this, plaintiff walked through the showroom with the metal pipe in hand before exiting into the parking lot and departing from the premises. Plaintiff did not return to the dealership that day.

After conducting an investigation into the altercation, United Nissan terminated plaintiff's employment. Mr. Cadot was suspended for three days without pay for his involvement in the incident. Plaintiff now alleges that defendant violated Title VII as well as Nevada Revised Statute § 613.330 by punishing him more severely based on his status as an African American.

On April 9, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and Nevada Revised Statute § 613.330. (Doc. # 1). On May 31, 2013, defendant moved for summary judgment as to plaintiff's claims. (Doc. # 35). On February 4, 2014, the court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 60). Trial is currently set for April 13, 2015. (Doc. # 98).

II. Legal Standard

"The court must decide any preliminary question about whether... evidence is admissible." Fed.R.Evid. 104. Motions in limine are procedural mechanisms by which the court can make evidentiary rulings in advance of trial, often to preclude the use of unfairly prejudicial evidence. United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d 1108, 1111-12 (9th Cir. 2009); Brodit v. Cambra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (9th Cir. 2003).

"Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1980). Motions in limine may be used to exclude or admit evidence in advance of trial. See Fed.R.Evid. 103; United States v. Williams, 939 F.2d 721, 723 (9th Cir. 1991) (affirming district court's ruling in limine that prosecution could admit impeachment evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 609).

Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 922 (9th Cir. 1999) ("The district court has considerable latitude in performing a Rule 403 balancing test and we will uphold its decision absent clear abuse of discretion.").

"[I]n limine rulings are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial." Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000); accord Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner).

III. Discussion

Defendant's motion includes seven separate motions in limine. (Doc. # 92). The court will address each request in turn.

a. Motion No. 1

Defendant first requests that the court exclude certain witness testimony not disclosed during the course of discovery or in plaintiff's Rule 26 disclosures. (Doc. # 92). Defendant states that in plaintiff's pretrial report, plaintiff identifies Richard H. Groberski as a witness and notes an intention to use his deposition testimony from another action against defendant. (Doc. # 88).

According to defendant, plaintiff also belatedly disclosed his intention to call custodians of records from the Las Vegas Review Journal and Las Vegas Public Library as trial witnesses without producing the requisite documents. (Doc. # 92). Defendant contends that plaintiff has violated local rules 16.1-5 and 16.1-21, which detail duties of disclosure, including certification and good faith elements. See LR 16.1-5, 16.1-21.

Defendant cites Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(e)(1)(A) and 37(c)(1) in arguing that plaintiff should be foreclosed from using the above testimony at trial. Defendant contends that it has been deprived of the opportunity to evaluate any relevant documents and engage in the deposition examination of Mr. Graberski, and that it is therefore prejudiced as a result. (Doc. # 92).

Plaintiff responds that because the witnesses and documents at issue may be offered only for impeachment purposes, plaintiff did not have to disclose them. (Doc. # 96). Plaintiff is correct on this point. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1)(A) details required discovery disclosures, specifying that documents and information on relevant individuals ...

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