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Walker v. Charter Communications LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 23, 2019

Terrance Walker, Plaintiff,
v.
Charter Communications LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES, United Sties District Judge.

         Before this Court are Defendant’s Motions in Limine Nos. 1 Through 3 (ECF No. 194), Plaintiff’s Motions to Extend Time (ECF Nos. 195, 207), Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 200), Plaintiff’s Motion to Disqualify Counsel (ECF No. 197), and Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File (ECF No. 211). The Court grants in part and denies in part the Motions as follows:

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion in limine is a procedural device used to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. “Typically, a party makes this motion when it believes that mere mention of the evidence during trial would be highly prejudicial and could not be remedied by an instruction to disregard.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1171 (10th ed. 2014). Trial judges are authorized to rule on motions in limine pursuant to their authority to manage trials. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (providing that trial should be conducted so as to “prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury by any means” (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c))).

         Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). However, a motion in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence. See C&E Servs., Inc., v. Ashland, Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 316, 323 (D.D.C. 2008). To exclude evidence on a motion in limine “the evidence must be inadmissible on all potential grounds.” E.g., Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). “Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). This is because although rulings on motions in limine may save “time, costs, effort and preparation, a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence.” Wilkins v. Kmart Corp., 487 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1219 (D. Kan. 2007).

         In limine rulings are preliminary and therefore “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). “Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted to trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded.” Ind. Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846.

         ANALYSIS

         1. MOTION IN LIMINE 1

         Defendant’s first Motion in Limine requests that this Court exclude as inadmissible hearsay the June 19, 2014 Letter from Adam Wagoner (ECF No. 132, 76) and any testimony or statements regarding the letter. Defendant further requests that the Court deem inadmissible various anticipated testimony from witnesses Deane Browne, Michael Kapetan, and Dana Smith.

         As this Court previously found, the June 19 Letter from Wagoner does not comply with 28 U.S.C. § 1746 and therefore fails to provide the crucial indicium of reliability that is generally required of all testamentary evidence. Lacking this indicium, and otherwise failing to satisfy any of the exception or exemption requirements to the hearsay doctrine, the letter is inadmissible pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 802. However, the Court declines to rule on potential testimony by witnesses prior to trial.[1] Therefore, the Court will reserve ruling on the hearsay objections to testimony until trial. Accordingly, Defendants first Motion in Limine is granted in part and denied in part.

         2. MOTION IN LIMINE 2

         Defendant’s second Motion in Limine requests that this Court exclude as inadmissible evidence of and argument about defendant’s net worth, size, business practices, and other characterizations. Defendant claims that such evidence is irrelevant, lacks probative value and would be unduly prejudicial under; therefore is inadmissible under FRE 401 and 403. While such evidence is relevant in determining punitive damages, White v. Ford Motor Co., 500 F.3d 963, 976–77 (9th Cir. 2007), irrelevant characterizations of a party as wealthy or the like may inappropriately cause bias in a jury. See Dubric v. A Cab, LLC, 2:15-CV-02136-RCJ-CWH, 2017 WL 662487, at *4 (D. Nev. Feb. 17, 2017) (noting the potential for evidence of a defendant’s net worth to be “distracting and prejudicial”). Accordingly, Defendant’s second Motion in Limine is granted.

         3. MOTION IN LIMINE 3

         Defendant’s third Motion in Limine requests that this Court exclude evidence and argument relating to the Plaintiff’s claim with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation, Employment Security Division (“ESD”). Defendant argues that such evidence is barred pursuant to NRS 612.533 and Bradshaw v. Golden Road Motor Inn, 885 F.Supp. 1370, (D. Nev. 1995). Defendant further argues that such evidence is hearsay under FRE 802 and ...


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