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McColl v. American Naturopathic Council

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

October 24, 2018

TINA MCCOLL, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN NATUROPATHIC COUNCIL and ALLIED PROFESSIONALS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          TIMOTHY J. CAVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Tina McColl (“McColl”) brings this action against Defendants American Naturopathic Counsel and Allied Professional Insurance Company (“Allied”) for alleged bad faith insurance practices under Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (the “UTPA”). (Doc. 6.)

         United States District Judge Sam E. Haddon has referred the case to the undersigned under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Doc. 76, 82.) Presently before the Court are McColl's Motions in Limine. (Doc. 120.) Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court finds McColl's motions should be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Motions in limine are procedural devices that may be used to exclude anticipated inadmissible or prejudicial evidence before it is actually offered at trial. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984). Motions in limine, however, do “not lie to exclude broad categories of evidence.” Acad. of Motion Picture Arts & Scis. v. Godaddy.com, Inc., 2015 WL 12697750, *2 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 10, 2015). Rather, motions in limine must specifically “identify the evidence at issue and state with specificity why such evidence is inadmissible.” Colton Crane Co., LLC v. Terex Cranes Wilmington, Inc., 2010 WL 2035800, *1 (C.D. Cal. May 19, 2010). See also Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975) (“Orders in limine which exclude broad categories of evidence should rarely be employed. A better practice is to deal with questions of admissibility of evidence as they arise.”).

         “A party cannot use a motion in limine to sterilize the other party's presentation of the case.” Johnson v. Gen. Mills Inc., 2012 WL 13015023, *1 (C.D. Cal. May 7, 2012). Motions in limine also should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence. C & E Services, 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 “clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” 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). 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. K-Mart Corp., 487 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1219 (D. Kan. 2007).

         II. DISCUSSION

         McColl moves to exclude any evidence, testimony or argument regarding: (1) comparative bad faith/attacks on McColl or her counsel; (2) after-acquired evidence; (3) the existence of other insurance; (4) the date or amount for which the case should have settled/argument that McColl was unhappy with the verdict; (5) the State District Court's denial of summary judgment; (6) proceedings before the Alternative Healthcare Board; and (7) the deposition of Alan F. Blakley. (Doc. 121.) Allied opposes the motion. (Doc. 125.)

         A. Comparative Bad Faith/Attacks on Plaintiff or her Counsel

         McColl argues the Court should broadly exclude any evidence, testimony or argument that would “disparage or vilify her or her counsel or blame them for the scope of the investigation or adjustment of the claim.” (Doc. 121 at 3.) McColl also asserts “comparative bad faith” is not a defense, and thus contends any evidence of “claimed bad faith or misconduct by Mrs. McColl or her counsel” should be excluded. (Id. at 4.) Allied responds that it does not intend to disparage counsel or McColl, and has not asserted a defense of “comparative bad faith.” Nevertheless, Allied asserts that evidence as to what occurred between the parties leading up to the trial in the underlying case is relevant to both McColl's claims and Allied's defenses.

         McColl's motion falls short of the specificity required for a motion in limine. McColl does not specifically identify what evidence she seeks to exclude. The Court finds this type of broad request would require the Court to “‘rule in a vacuum' on the admissibility of evidence.” Acad. of Motion Picture Arts & Scis., 2015 WL 12697750 at *2. The Court declines to do so because granting “such amorphous motions would ‘leav[e] the court and the parties to guess what [evidence] during trial may be included within the scope of the ruling.'” Id.

         Further, categorically excluding all evidence of McColl's conduct after the claim would not be appropriate. Apparently, McColl seeks to exclude all evidence of her conduct and that of her attorney. But the jury cannot evaluate the insurer's conduct in isolation. Evidence of the course of dealing between the parties is relevant to claims and defenses in this case. At trial, Judge Haddon can rule on any evidentiary issues concerning McColl's conduct as they arise, and in light of the factual context in which they are presented.

         Moreover, it is a misuse of motions in limine to base them “on matters of day-to-day logistics and common professional courtesy.” Johnson, 2012 WL 13015023 at *1. As such, the Court finds it is unnecessary to grant a motion in limine preventing Allied from “attacking” McColl or her counsel.

         B. ...


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