United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE; ORDER VACATING THE
HEARING ON THE MOTIONS IN LIMINE (Docs. 63-69)
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Celestine purchased a 2012 Dodge Durango in April 2012, which
he contends had serious defects and nonconformities to
warranty. He contends FCA UC LLC manufactured the vehicle and
is liable for violations of the Song-Beverly Consumer
Warranty Act and fraudulent inducement under California law.
The defendant denies these claims.
parties have filed pretrial motions in limine. Because the
positions of the parties are adequately set forth, the Court
VACATES the hearing on the motion in limine.
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
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
(2000). The Court will bar use of the evidence in question
only if the moving party establishes that the evidence
clearly is not admissible for any valid purpose.
Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.
example, under the Federal Rules of Evidence, any evidence
that is not relevant is not admissible. Fed.R.Evid. 402. To
determine that evidence is relevant, the Court must find
“(a) it has a tendency to make a fact more or less
probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the
fact is of consequence in determining the action.”
Fed.R.Evid. 401. Nevertheless, relevant evidence may be
excluded “if its probative value is substantially
outweighed by the danger of one or more of the following:
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.
rulings on the motions in limine made below do not preclude
either party from raising the admissibility of the evidence
discussed herein, if the evidence adduced at trial
demonstrate a change of circumstances that would make the
evidence admissible, such as for impeachment or if the
opponent opens the door to allow for its admissibility.
However, if this occurs, the proponent of the evidence
SHALL raise the issue with the Court outside
the presence of the jury. Finally, the rulings made here are
binding on all parties and their witnesses and not merely on
the moving party.
Plaintiffs' Motions in Limine
Plaintiff's motion in limine No. 1 (Doc.
notes that his recollection about whether he “called
FCA or one of its authorized dealers regarding the issues he
has had with the vehicle is unclear.” (Doc. 63 at 4)
Mr. Celestine argues that whether he requested repurchase,
FCA had a duty to monitor vehicle repairs and to repurchase
the truck. In short, the plaintiff seeks to prohibit FCA from
asking him questions about his efforts to obtain buyback and
his failure to engage in FCA's dispute resolution program
and to prohibit FAC to presenting evidence about its dispute
resolution program. Id. at 5.
Song-Beverly places the burden on the manufacturer to monitor
warranty repair attempts and “does not require
consumers to take any affirmative steps to secure relief for
the failure of a manufacturer to service or repair a vehicle
to conform to applicable warranties-other than, of course,
permitting the manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to
repair the vehicle, ” even though, “as a
practical matter, ” most consumers likely will make
such a request. Krotin v. Porsche Cars N. Am., Inc.,
38 Cal.App.4th 294, 302-303 (1995), as modified on denial of
reh'g (Sept. 14, 1995); see also id. at 303
(“As it stands now, however, the manufacturer has an
affirmative duty to replace a vehicle or make restitution to
the buyer if the manufacturer is unable to repair the new
vehicle after a reasonable number of repair attempts, and the
buyer need not reject or revoke acceptance of the vehicle at
any time. The buyer need only provide the manufacturer with a
reasonable opportunity to fix the vehicle.”);
Lukather v. Gen. Motors, LLC, 181 Cal.App.4th 1041,
1050 (2010) (citing Krotin and rejecting the
defendant's contention that plaintiff “himself had
a duty to act promptly under the Act”).
defense argues that the fact the plaintiff never complained
to FCA or a dealership that the vehicle was defective is
probative of whether the vehicle had a defect that
substantially impaired its use, value or safety that FCA did
not repair within a reasonable number of attempts. (Doc. 71
at 3) The Court agrees. Thus, the motion is
Plaintiff's motion in limine No. 2 (Doc.
plaintiff seeks to exclude testimony from Michael McDowell,
who is FCA's “person most
knowledgeable.” (Doc. 64) The plaintiff asserts
correctly that only designated experts are permitted to offer
reports that the plaintiff did not take Mr. McDowell's
deposition, so he can have no idea what Mr. McDowell will
say. (Doc. 72) FCA notes also that Mr. McDowell is a
long-time employee who, due to this experience working for
FCA, has personal knowledge about various topics including
the Customer Assistance Inquiry Records. FCA clarifies that
it has no intention of seeking testimony that is beyond Mr.
McDowell's personal knowledge and which strays into
the motion is DENIED and neither party is
entitled to ask Mr. McDowell questions that would urge him to
stray into expert territory and ...