United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER ON THE MOTIONS IN LIMINE (DOCS. 41,
Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
and Jarvis Naff contend Defendant State Farm General
Insurance Company wrongfully cancelled their insurance policy
and denied their claim following a house fire that caused the
loss of personal property. State Farm argues its actions were
proper and seeks a declaration of rights in its counterclaim.
Legal Standards Governing Motions in Limine
the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in
limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the
district court’s inherent authority to manage the
course of trials.” Luce v. United States, 469
U.S. 38, 40 n. 2 (1984). The Ninth Circuit explained motions
in limine “allow parties to resolve evidentiary
disputes ahead of trial, without first having to present
potentially prejudicial evidence in front of a jury.”
Brodit v. Cabra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (9th Cir.
2003) (citations omitted).
motions in limine seeking the exclusion of broad categories
of evidence are disfavored. See Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire
and Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975). The
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, 1218 (D. Kan. 2007). The Sixth Circuit
explained, “[A] better practice is to deal with
questions of admissibility of evidence as they arise [in
trial]” as opposed to ruling on a motion in limine.
Sperberg, 519 F.2d at 712. Nevertheless, motions in
limine are “an important tool available to the trial
judge to ensure the expeditious and evenhanded management of
the trial proceedings.” Jonasson v. Lutheran Child
& Family Services, 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir.
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), because that is the province of the jury. See
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, 530 U.S. 133, 150
the rulings on the motions in limine made here does not
preclude either party from raising the admissibility of the
evidence discussed here, if the evidence adduced at trial
demonstrates a change of circumstances that would make the
evidence admissible. In this event, the proponent of the
evidence SHALL raise the issue outside the
presence of the jury. Finally, the rulings made here are
binding on all parties and not merely on the moving party.
Plaintiff’s Motions in Limine
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #1 to exclude evidence and
argument that their claim was denied on any
basis other than the three set forth in the December 5, 2014
plaintiffs argue that in its letter, dated December 5, 2014,
State Farm reported that it was denying the Naffs’
insurance claim for three reasons: “(1) the alleged
claim for the patio cover; (2) the discrepancies in the
inventories; and (3) the failure to provide requested
documentation.” (Doc. 41 at 13) The only specific
evidence raised in the motion relate to the fact that the
defendant did not mention their prior bankruptcy action.
Id. The plaintiffs rely on 10 CCR §
2695.7(b)(1) which reads, “Where an insurer denies or
rejects a first party claim, in whole or in part, it shall do
so in writing and shall provide to the claimant a statement
listing all bases for such rejection or denial and the
factual and legal bases for each reason given for such
rejection or denial which is then within the insurer's
knowledge.” On this basis, the plaintiffs argue that
State Farm should not be permitted to introduce evidence that
would support other reasons. Id.
defendant opposes the motion and notes that it did not
intentionally waive any right to raise other examples of
misrepresentation made by the plaintiffs merely because the
denial letter failed to list every factual basis to support
the exclusions upon which it relied in cancelling the policy
and denying the claim. (Doc. 44 at 9-14) The defendant notes
the Court decided this issue recently when addressing
objections made to its evidence in support to the motion for
summary judgment. Id. The Court agrees and sees no
basis to retreat from this ruling. (Doc. 38 at 9-11) Thus,
the motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #2 to exclude evidence
related to their 1999 bankruptcy action
plaintiffs argue that evidence related to their 1999
bankruptcy action-filed more than a decade before the fire at
issue-should be excluded. (Doc. 41 at 14-15) The defendant
seems to assert that the only use it would have for the 1999
bankruptcy petition is to counter any claim on the
plaintiffs’ that errors made in the 2010 bankruptcy
petition were made as a result of confusion. (Doc. 44 at 15)
Because they had been through the process before, the
defendants assert that these documents would demonstrate an
absence of mistake. Fed. R. Civ.P. 404(b). The plaintiffs
counter that they have never claimed that the entries in the
2010 bankruptcy petition were made as a result of a mistake.
because the information contained in the petition
may be impeaching, the motion is DENIED.
However, absent a change in circumstances, the petition
itself will not be admitted.
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #3 to exclude evidence
related to their 2010 bankruptcy action
plaintiffs argue that evidence related to their 2010
bankruptcy filing should not be permitted to be introduced.
(Doc. 41 at 15-16) The plaintiffs assert that the inventory
completed by Sharon Endsley makes clear that the items she
listed on the inventory were in the house at the time of the
fire. Id. at 16. They argue also reiterate the
arguments raised in their motion in limine number 1.
defendants oppose the motion and assert-much like they did in
their motion for summary judgment-that this evidence
demonstrates a material misrepresentation which was the basis
for voiding the policy. (Doc. 44 at 15) Thus, for the reasons
set forth above-which includes the Court’s analysis in
its order on the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 38 at
9-11)--the motion is DENIED.
explicitly clear, the Court finds that the specifics as to
how the plaintiffs’ were able to furnish their home
with the items observed by Ms. Endsley is only marginally
relevant, the defendant is permitted a few questions
only as to the sources of income for the Naffs at the time of
the bankruptcy and after for the purpose of laying a
foundation for argument at the close of the case. The Court
will judge any questions beyond a few to be
collateral to the central questions presented by this
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #4 to exclude evidence
related to their being the victims of a
October 8, 2014, about nine months after their home burned,
Mr. and Mrs. Naff were the victims of a drive-by shooting.
(Doc. 41 at 17.) The plaintiffs argue that the defendant
would offer this evidence in an attempt to make them appear
as if they are “gang members or thugs” to support
the position that they would, therefore, made a false claim.
Id. The plaintiffs assert that this evidence would
inflame the jurors and would paint the plaintiff’s in
an unflattering light. Id. at 17.
defendant opposes this motion and notes that the fact that
the Naffs were the victims of a violent crime “casts no
aspersions” on them. (Doc. 44 at 24-25) Rather, the
defendant notes that the evidence of the shooting provides an
alternate explanation for the emotional distress which the
plaintiffs’ claim they suffered as a result of the
denial of their claim. Id.
the complaint indicates that,
Since the claim was filed, Defendants have engaged in an
egregious course of repeated delay tactics, harassment,
defamatory accusations, and negligent and intentional acts in
the handling of the claims which has caused and continues to
cause Plaintiffs significant harm and damages. As a result,
the Plaintiffs have experienced a host of problems,
including, without limitation, the loss of virtually all of
their personal property, incurring significant expense in
having to replace items that are necessary and ordinary for
day to day living, the inability to replace all of the items
they lost, and significant physical and emotional problems.
(Doc. 1-2 at 7) The complaint also lists a number of wrongful
acts the plaintiffs contend the defendant did that caused
them harm. Id. at 7, 8-9. They assert that these
acts caused them emotional harm, among other damage.
Id. at 9, 11, 12. Based upon these allegations, it
appears that the plaintiffs claim that the emotional distress
they suffered as a result of the defendant’s conduct
began at the time they filed the claim, rather than from the
time that the claim was denied in December 2014.
defendant argues that the plaintiffs’ case in chief
requires them to show that the emotional distress suffered by
the Naffs was caused by the defendant’s action. (Doc.
44 at 17-18) Likewise, the defendants argue they are entitled
to demonstrate that whatever emotional distress the Naffs
suffered was due to events unrelated to its actions.
Id. The defendant cites to Blake v. Aetna Life
Ins. Co., 99 Cal.App.3d 901, 925 (1979). In
Blake, the Court held, “In the customary
“bad faith” case, the essence of the
plaintiff's emotional distress is the anxiety arising
from the financial deprivation traceable directly to
nonpayment of the claim.” Id. at 924-925;
Othman v. Globe Indem. Co., 759 F.2d 1458, 1468 (9th
Cir. 1985) overruled on other grounds by Bryant v. Ford
Motor Co., 832 F.2d 1080 (9th Cir. 1987) overruled by
Bryant v. Ford Motor Co., 844 F.2d 602 (9th Cir.
Court agrees that the fact that the plaintiffs were shot in
October 2014 may be an alternative cause for the
plaintiffs' emotional distress. Thus, the motion is
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #5 to exclude evidence
related to an incident of domestic
January 25, 2013, a month after the fire, the plaintiffs were
living in a hotel. (Doc. 44 at 27) While there, the Naffs
engaged in an incident of domestic violence, which caused
Mrs. Naff to summon police. Id. Though charges were
filed against Mr. Naff, they were ultimately dismissed. (Doc.
41 at 17)
plaintiffs argue this evidence should not be admitted because
it is irrelevant but, even if there is any probative value,
it is outweighed by its prejudicial effect. (Doc. 41 at 17)
The defendant argues this evidence is directly relevant to
the plaintiffs’ claim that the defendant’s
conduct caused them to suffer marital strife. (Doc. 44 at 27)
In addition, the defendant asserts that the evidence should
be allowed because it reveals alternate bases for the marital
appears that the Naffs have claimed that the
distress they suffered as a result of the conduct of the
defendant caused them to suffer marital discord. Though the
Naffs clarified at the hearing that they do not claim the
January 25, 2013 incident resulted from this stress, the
defendant is entitled to present this evidence, which could
demonstrate that whatever marital problems the couple
suffered were unrelated to the fire and, hence, negating a
portion of the emotional distress damage claim. Thus, the
motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #6 to exclude evidence
related to criminal charges against any party or
plaintiffs seek to exclude evidence related to criminal
charges brought in the past or are pending against any party
or witness. (Doc. 41 at 17-18) They argue that in 1989 and
2004, Mr. Naff was charged with crimes, though both charges
were dismissed. Id. The rely upon Fed.R.Evid. 404.
defendants argue that evidence of charges raised after the
fire, even if the criminal complaints were later dismissed,
are relevant to show alternate causes of the emotional
distress. (Doc. 44 at 28-29) They do not claim that charges
brought before the fire as to the plaintiffs or charges
brought against witnesses at any time are admissible. The
Court agrees and, to this extent, the motion is GRANTED.
other hand, as discussed above evidence about what occurred
on January 25, 2013 may be admissible depending upon the
showing made. Thus, to this extent, the motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Motion in Limine #7 to exclude evidence
related to criminal convictions against any party or
plaintiffs seek to exclude evidence related to evidence
convictions suffered by Mr. Naff and the ...