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Walden v. Maryland Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

December 4, 2017

BREANNE WALDEN, DANIELLE DESCHENES AZURE, JESSICA BLACKWEASEL, SABRINA REMUS COYNE, BRITTANY DEAN, JENNIFER DEMENT, DANIELLE DUNCAN, JACKIE GREAVU, BETH HAYES, JANA HEILIG, KEALLIE LIETZ, JACKIE MULLENNAX, SARA ONSAGER, ANNA RADFORD, BARBARA SLOAN, MOLLY STILSON, and KYRA TILSON, Individually and as Assignees of DB&D, LLC d/b/a DAHL'S COLLEGE OF BEAUTY, Plaintiffs,
v.
MARYLAND CASUALTY COMPANY, and DOES 1-5, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court are Defendant's Motions in Limine (Doc. 88). At the outset, it is important to note that the Court's overriding goal in this case is to facilitate efficient presentation of the relevant evidence and, to the extent possible, preclude irrelevant and extraneous matters at the time of trial. With this goal in mind, and for the reasons briefly explained below, the Court grants the motion in part, denies the motion in part, and reserves ruling in part.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Following a Mandate of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in this case on July 7, 2017, this matter is now back before this Court. On October 7, 2015, this Court granted Defendant Maryland Casualty Company's ("Maryland") motion for summary judgment, and denied all other pending motions as moot. The Ninth Circuit reversed this Court's ruling. The parties submitted a joint status report on August 18, 2017, pursuant to the Court's request, outlining the motions that are now ripe and need to be resolved.

         On August 28, 2015, Defendants filed their motions in limine including:

• Motion in Limine 1 - Excluding any reference to the consent judgment in the underlying case
• Motion in Limine 2 - Excluding evidence of or testimony regarding Maryland's alleged bad faith, duty to defend, duty to indemnify, or that insurer did not pay Plaintiffs' claims
• Motion in Limine 3 - Excluding or limiting the testimony of Plaintiffs' expert Katy Nicholls
• Motion in Limine 4 - Excluding or limiting the testimony of Plaintiffs' expert Dr. Barak Gaster
• Motion in Limine 5 - Excluding any unexpressed expert opinions by Dr. Gaster or Nicholls, including, but not limited to, any reference to or discussion of the article concerning the effect of stress on asthma identified by Dr. Gaster during his deposition
• Motion in Limine 6 - Excluding any argument that Dahl's was negligent
• Motion in Limine 7 - Excluding evidence or testimony regarding the amount of the Plaintiffs' tuition payments and/or student loans
• Motion in Limine 8 - Excluding any reference to or testimony about Dahl's alleged failure to keep proper records
• Motion in Limine 9 - Excluding any reference to or testimony about alleged inadequate instruction by Dahl's or Ms. Heikkila

         The Court will address the merits of each motion below.

         DISCUSSION

         A motion in limine is used to preclude prejudicial or objectionable evidence before it is presented to the jury. 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. United States v. Bensimon, 172 F.3d 1121, 1127 (9th Cir. 1999). A motion in limine "should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence." BNSF Ry. v. Quad City Testing Laboratory, Inc., 2010 WL 4337827, at *1 (D. Mont. Oct. 26, 2010). Evidence shall be excluded in limine only when it is shown that the evidence is "inadmissible on all potential grounds." See, e.g.Jnd. 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." BNSF, 2010 WL 4337827 at * 1. "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." Id. Rulings on motions in limine are provisional and the trial judge may always change his mind during the course of trial. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984).

         I. Motion in Limine 1 - Excluding any reference to the consent judgment in the underlying case

         Maryland contends that the underlying stipulated judgment is no longer of any consequence and is irrelevant to the issues to be decided in this case at trial. (Doc. 91 at 7 (citing to Hardesty v. Barcus, 2012 WL 5906797, at *2 (D. Mont. Nov. 26, 2012)). Plaintiffs do not oppose this motion. (Doc. 93 at 7.) Thus, Maryland's Motion in Limine 1 is granted.

         II. Motion in Limine 2 - Excluding evidence of or testimony regarding Maryland's alleged bad faith, duty to defend, duty to indemnify, or ...


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