United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
PETER B. HUTTON, Plaintiff,
JERALD L. NYHART, Defendant.
Morris, United States District Court Judge.
Jerald L. Nyhart (“Nyhart”) filed the following
motions: (1) Motion in Limine (Doc. 44); and (2) Combined
Motion for Permission to File Second Motion in Limine, and
Second Motion in Limine (Doc. 108). Defendant/Counterclaimant
Peter B. Hutton (“Hutton”) opposes the Motions.
The Court addresses both pending Motions.
IN LIMINE LEGAL STANDARDS
motion in limine constitutes “a procedural mechanism to
limit in advance testimony or evidence in a particular area.
Frost v. BNSF Ry. Co., 218 F.Supp.3d 1122, 1133 (D. Mont.
2016). A motion in limine “reduces the likelihood that
unduly prejudicial evidence will ever reach the jury.”
Jackson v. Cty. Of San Bernardino, 194 F.Supp.3d
1004, 1008 (C.D. Cal. 2016) (citing Brodit v.
Cambra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (9th Cir. 2003). District
courts possess “wide discretion in considering a motion
in limine.” Frost, 218 F.Supp.3d at 1133.
Motion in Limine (Doc. 44)
seeks to exclude the following evidence: (1) communications
pursuant to Rules 402, 403, and 408; and (2) prior litigation
in which Nyhart was involved, pursuant to Rules 402, 403,
404, and 608. (Doc. 44 at 1.) The Court addresses each
argument in turn.
Communication & Negotiation
and Nyhart engaged in communication and negotiation beginning
in fall of 2016. (Doc. 45 at 4.) These discussions concerned
the Farm Lease, the payment of rent, and Side Letter
Agreement. Id. at 5 (citing Ex 2; Ex 1, p 102:1-4).)
These discussions occurred between the fall of 2016, and
October of 2017. Nyhart filed his lawsuit in this Court on
November 3, 2017. Nyhart seeks to exclude the negotiations
and deposition testimony.
408 excludes compromise negotiations when offered
“either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of
a disputed claim or to impeach a prior inconsistent statement
or contradiction[.]” Fed.R.Evid. 408(a). A litigant
asserting a motion in limine under Rule 408 must demonstrate
a “substantial showing” that the communications
were part of the attempts to settle the dispute. United
States v. Mirama Enterprises, Inc., 185 F.Supp.2d 1148,
1156 (S.D. Cal. 2002). Offers made in exchange for a release
of claims after the commencement of litigation must be
excluded under Rule 408. See Coleman v. Quaker Oats,
232 F.3d 1271, 1290 (9th Cir. 2000). Statements made before a
formal claim is filed are not made in furtherance of
settlement and generally should be admitted. See Cassino
v. Reichhold Chem., Inc., 817 F.2d 1338, 1342 (9th Cir.
asserts that the communications between the parties
constituted “compromise communication.” (Doc. 45
at 4.) The record demonstrates, however, that the
communication between the parties constitutes prelitigation
communication. These conversations reflect the parties'
business negotiations before Nyhart filed his lawsuit on
November 3, 2017. The purpose of Rule 408 serves to encourage
the compromise and settlement of “existing
disputes.” Josephs v. Pacific Bell, 443 F.3d
1050, 1064 (9th Cir. 2006). Communications between the
parties before Nyhart filed the lawsuit fall outside of the
Rule 408 exclusion and purpose.
Motion in Limine concerning communications made before Nyhart
filing the lawsuit with this Court on November 3, 2017 is
therefore denied. Evidence of communications concerning the
Farm Lease, payment of rent, and the Side Letter Agreement is
admissible. Nyhart's deposition testimony concerning the
parties' negotiations is similarly admissible.
next asserts that evidence of prior lawsuits in which Nyhart
was a party proves inadmissible. (Doc. 45 at 9.) Nyhart
argues that such evidence constitutes improper character
evidence under Rule 404. Id. at 11. Nyhart further
argues that such evidence is unfairly prejudicial under Rule
403. Id. Hutton asserts that his purpose in the use
of prior litigation evidence involving Nyhart would be to
demonstrate that Nyhart possesses knowledge and experience
with real estate contracts. (Doc. 71 at 16.)
404 prohibits “[e]vidence of a person's character
or character trait . . . to prove that on a particular
occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or
trait.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(a)(1). Further,
“[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not
admissible to prove a person's character in order to show
that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance
with the character.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). Such
evidence may be admissible to prove motive. A district court
may exclude evidence if its probative ...