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Tarter v. Throne Law Office, P.C.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

March 6, 2019

BRYAN M. TARTER, I Plaintiff,
v.
THRONE LAW OFFICE, P.C., and JACOB T. HASEMAN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SUSAN P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are five motions in limine filed by Defendants Throne Law Office, P.C, and Jacob T. Haseman. For the following reasons, the Court denies the motions in limine.

         I. Facts

         Please see the background section of the Court's order granting in part and denying in part the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 31).

         II. Law

         Motions in limine are procedural devices to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). A motion in limine 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 inadmissible on all potential grounds." Ind. Ins. Co. v. K-Mart Corp., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Courts have wide discretion in considering and ruling on motions in limine. See Luce v. U.S., 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984).

         III. Discussion

         A. Plaintiffs experts are not cumulative

         1. Plaintiffs retained experts

         The Defendants argue the Plaintiffs experts offer cumulative testimony on the standard of care in violation of Rule of Evidence 403. The Plaintiff responds that while there is some overlap, each is necessary because one is an expert transactional attorney and one is an expert bankruptcy attorney. The Court agrees with the Plaintiff.

         Robert Sullivan is an expert in real estate, financing, and litigation. Sullivan's opinion on the standard of care is that senior attorneys have a responsibility to supervise less experienced attorneys in transaction negotiations, and the failure to meet that standard of care here resulted in the Defendants missing the issue of security in the negotiation.

         James Patten is an expert in bankruptcy law. Patten's opinion on the standard of care is that attorneys have a responsibility to advise clients on the risks associated with unsecured transactions, such as not being paid in full if the debtor files for bankruptcy, and the failure to meet that standard of care here resulted in the Plaintiff entering an unsecured transaction without knowing or understanding the risks.

         The two opinions have some overlap because they pertain to security in transactions, but they are focused on different aspects of the lack of security in this negotiation. Sullivan's opinion mostly concerns how the standard of care was breached, whereas Patten's opinion mostly concerns the effects of the breach. Furthermore, given the complex nature of this professional negligence action, which involves detailed real estate agreements and bankruptcy proceedings, the jury will benefit from hearing the opinion of an expert in each field.

         At trial, if the opinions of Sullivan and Patten become impermissibly cumulative, the Defendants are free to ...


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